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Times Staff
Published June 1, 2004

An increasing number of college freshmen are showing an interest in politics, reversing a trend that has lasted more than three decades.

One-third of the college freshmen surveyed last fall by the the Higher Education Research Institute said "keeping up to date with political affairs" is a very important life goal.

That's up from a record low of 28 percent in 2000, but far below levels recorded in the late 1960s, when 60 percent of freshmen said keeping up with politics was important.

The Institute surveyed 276,000 students at 413 colleges and universities. Among its other findings:

* 22 percent of college freshmen identify themselves as "conservative" or "far right," up from 21.3 percent in 2002.

* 24.2 percent of freshmen identify themselves as "liberal." That's down from 25.3 percent last year.

* About half of the freshmen surveyed consider themselves "middle of the road" politically.

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