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What first-years think about the Duke Compact, and which groups are most likely to follow it

Editor's note: This story is part of a series about the Class of 2024 based on a survey conducted by The Chronicle. You can read more about our methodology and limitations here, or see all of our survey coverage here

Interactives by Mona Tong.

The Class of 2024 described their opinions on and adherence to the Duke Compact, the agreement laying out the broad outlines of Duke’s COVID-19 safety guidelines, in the Chronicle’s first year survey. 

First-years were confident in themselves and their peers to abide by certain elements of the Duke Compact, including wearing a mask and reporting symptoms on the SymMon app. All respondents indicated they are “very likely” or “moderately likely” to wear a mask and 88.5% estimated their peers were similarly likely. Around 98% of respondents said they are “very” or “moderately likely” to report symptoms on SymMon and that 90.8% of their peers are equally likely. 

However, students also indicated they and their peers are less likely to avoid large gatherings or engage in physical distancing. The Chronicle reported in September that some first-years participated in large group gatherings on East Campus during orientation week. 

Overall, survey respondents tended to be much less confident in their peers' likelihood of following the Duke Compact than their own, being particularly distrustful of their peers’ likelihood to physically distance and avoid large gatherings. Nearly 77% of first-years said that they are very or moderately likely to physically distance but only 34.5% indicated that their peers are likely to do the same. Similarly, 83.9% of respondents indicated they were very or “moderately likely to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people but estimated only 37.5% of their peers are similarly likely.

Slightly more respondents are unlikely than likely to report violations of the Compact—39.4% reported being “very unlikely” or “somewhat unlikely” to report, compared to 31.1% that reported being “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to report.

The vast majority of respondents held “strongly favorable” or “somewhat favorable” views towards the Duke Compact and first-year fall housing situations—83.9% and 85.5%, respectively. Despite East Campus resident assistants reporting inconsistent and unclear enforcement in the beginning of the year, the majority—64.9%—of first-years hold “somewhat favorable” or “strongly favorable” views of Duke’s enforcement of the Compact.

Liberal first-years more likely to adhere to COVID-19 rules

Whereas two-thirds of “very conservative” and 75% of “somewhat conservative” respondents indicated that they are “very likely” to wear a mask in public, 90.5% of “very liberal” and 93.9% of “somewhat liberal” respondents self-reported being “very likely” to wear a mask. (Only three students identified as “very conservative,” meaning the numbers for that demographic may be less accurate. See more about our methodology and limitations.)

Students who identify as more liberal also tended to report a greater likelihood to avoid large gatherings exceeding 10 people than more conservative students. Around 55% of “very liberal” students said they are “very likely” to avoid large gatherings, compared to about 33% of “very conservative” students who said they would.

With the exception of “very conservative” first-years, more liberal first-years were also more likely to self-report adherence to engaging in physical distancing than more conservative first-years. Compared to 36.2% of “very liberal” students who claim to physically distance, 20% of “somewhat conservative” students reported to do the same.


Biden voters hold more favorable views of the Duke Compact, are more likely to report violations

First-years who voted for President Joe Biden have more favorable views of the Duke Compact, with 85.6% of Biden voters expressing “strongly favorable” or “somewhat favorable” opinions, compared to 68.4% of those who voted for former President Donald Trump. Biden voters also have more favorable opinions on Duke’s enforcement of the Compact—66% indicated favorable opinions compared to 52.6% of Trump voters. 

A greater share of Biden voters also claimed to be “very likely” or “moderately likely” to report violations to the Duke Compact than Trump voters. Compared to 32.4% of Biden voters, only 5.3% of Trump voters indicated that they are at least “moderately likely” to report violations. None of the respondents who voted for Trump said they are “very likely” to report violations.


Wealthier students less likely to abide by Compact, feel that their peers abide by Compact 

First-years who fell in the highest income bracket—above $500,000—were the least likely to report avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people. While no student from an income bracket below $125,000 reported being “very unlikely” to avoid large gatherings, 7.1% of students from the “above $500,000” bracket indicated such. 

Wealthier students are also least likely to feel that their peers avoid large gatherings. Students from the “above $500,000” income bracket are the most likely to report that their peers are “very unlikely” to avoid large gatherings.

First-years from the “above $500,000” income bracket are more than four times as likely as first-years from the “below $40,000” bracket to indicate that their peers are “very unlikely” to physically distance—36.6% versus 8%, respectively. 

First-years in the high income bracket are the least likely to self-report engaging in physical distancing. Compared to 0% of respondents from the “below $40,000” bracket who indicated being “very unlikely” to physically distance, 14.3% of respondents from the “above $500,000” income bracket did.

As incomes rose, first-years are also less likely to report general violations of the Duke Compact. Compared to 4% of first-years from the below-$40,000 income bracket, 38.1% of those from the above-$500,000 bracket reported being “very unlikely” to report violations.


White students slightly less likely to self-report likelihood to abide by physical distancing and avoid large gatherings

Non-Hispanic white respondents are less likely to self-report adherence to physical distancing and avoiding large gatherings than respondents of other races. Compared to 53.3% of Black or African American, 40% of multiracial and 38.4% of Asian respondents that reported being “very likely” to physically distance, 22.4% of white respondents reported similar likelihood. 

Meanwhile, 66.7% of Black, 52.5% of Asian and 52% of multiracial first-years indicated being “very likely” to avoid large gatherings, compared to 37.9% of white respondents. 


Note: The “American Indian or Alaska Native” category was excluded from analysis because it contained only one student. There were only three students in the "Other" category. 

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