Wellesley First Years Conduct Research on Political Perception

March 27, 2014

Anna Page, Lizamaria Arias, and Alexis Zhang Attended the Conservative Political Action Conference

student holding iPad with survey waiting to be filled out

In a recent article in the New York Times, Anna Page ’17 spoke to a reporter about the future of the U.S. Republican party. Page was attending the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), along with Lizamaria Arias ’17 and Alexis Zhang ’17, for a research project that the three plan to present at the Ruhlman Conference on April 30.

Page, Arias, and Zhang all participated in the Freedom Project this January, a unique Wellesley institute that engages students in conversation with classical liberal ideals through seminars and a two-week intensive course over Wintersession. The three students became interested in studying young people’s perceptions of the Republican party, and in particular, how media representation of Republicans might affect those perceptions. Their research project tackles this question.

Wellesley’s Freedom Project provided funding for the students to take their project to CPAC, known as the major conference for young conservatives in the United States. “For me, CPAC was an informative and exciting experience,” said Zhang. “For the first time, I was surrounded by thousands of other thoughtful and passionate conservative activists. I attended a wide variety of speeches, panels, and workshops, featuring countless hard-working elected officials, operatives, and other leaders.”

In between attending events, the Wellesley trio asked attendees to fill out an opinion poll with questions such as, “How do you think the Republican party appeals to women?” and “How would you reform the Republican Party?”

It was while she was canvassing for participants that Page met the Times reporter. “Liza and I were in the halls recruiting people to take our opinion poll for Ruhlman and there was a lull in the rush,” said Page. “As you would expect, a number of reporters attend CPAC. One of these reporters, Jonathan Martin, approached me asking if he could ask a few questions. He asked about my beliefs and what I thought the Republican Party needs to do in order to succeed. It was not until after the interview that he told me he reports for the Times. It was an ordinary interaction that led to an extraordinary opportunity!”  

The article, “Young Republicans Find Fault with Elders on List of Social Issues,” (3/10/2014) explored how CPAC was revealing changes within the party youth and the older leadership while both groups seek to offer a conservative platform that resonates with the nation. These are the kinds of questions that the three Wellesley students are actively considering, both through their research and their personal political activism.

“CPAC was a great experience for me,” said Arias. “It allowed me to see firsthand the many leaders and activists dedicated to the same causes I believe in. It was also encouraging to see how important the party believes the youth to be. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, and I was glad to see the GOP has noticed it has one and is taking steps to correct it. I met some amazing people my age and older who are devoted to the conservative cause and it gave me great hope that the party can be indeed be re-energized.”

You can listen to Arias, Page, and Zhang share their research at Ruhlman, as well as dozens of other student presentations, on April 30.


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