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 Tattoo You — UMD

Josh Schultz
Shelly Stemper
See a video clip

Survey Uncovers Student Tattoos

There is a growing trend of tattoos among college students. Tattoos adorn students' shoulders, backs, arms, legs, feet, and even toes. Some students' tattoos tell stories of spiritual journeys, some honor family members that have passed on, and some tattoos are simply decorative. Almost all are personal statements.

The popularity of tattoos among all age groups is growing, as documented by a 2006 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology study and a 2007 Pew Research Center survey. Both studies produced similar results. The Pew research shows that 36 percent of those ages 18 to 25, and 40 percent of those ages 26 to 40, have at least one tattoo. In July 2002, "tattoos" reached its highest ranking ever, coming in as the number two most requested search term on the internet.

So how does UMD rank in the statistics? There is a slightly lower number of tattooed UMD students than in the general public. Students working in the UMD Department of University Relations recently conducted a survey of college students and their ink. (See video below left.) Of the 201 people surveyed, almost all current students, 26 percent said that they had at least one tattoo. The surveys were passed out in classes, in student lounges, and in dining centers. Because of the small sample and the methodology, the survey is for illustrative purposes only.

A Harris online poll reported that Democrats are more likely to have tattoos (18 percent) compared to Republicans (14 percent) and Independents (12 percent). UMD students tattoo statistics don't correspond closely to this finding. Of the 52 students who had tattoos, 52 percent were Democrats, 19 percent Republicans, and 10 percent Independents.

UMD also was not in line with the Harris poll in the area of gender. In the Harris poll, nearly equal percentages of males (16%) and females (15%) have tattoos. In the UMD survey, females with tattoos (40 or 35% of the females surveyed, 20% of all surveyed) outnumber males (12 or 14% of the males surveyed, 6% of all surveyed) and females (15%) have tattoos.

Tattoos can be a sign of beauty or they can be used as a statement of rebellion, to become empowered, to remember something or someone, and to feel included. According to an article by Cate Lineberry in, January 01, 2007, humans have been tattoed for thousands of years. "These permanent designs—sometimes plain, sometimes elaborate, always personal—have served as amulets, status symbols, declarations of love, signs of religious beliefs, adornments and even forms of punishment," she said.

UMD student Josh Schultz, who has had 22 hours of tattoo work done, says he feels empowered by his tattoo and getting tattoos is an important ritual. "Getting my tattoo was almost like going through a rite of passage," he said. "I've gotten work done almost everywhere I've traveled: Texas, New York, San Diego, Afghanistan, and New Zealand."

Schultz's tattoos are inspired by the work of spiritual and visual specialist artist Alex Grey. "I really love art, and Alex Grey's work represents a spiritual energy, an energy not seen by the naked eye," Schultz explained.

Schultz feels that his tattoo is different because it is a freestyle tattoo, "The first artist drew lines on my arm with a Sharpie and then filled in the details that she saw in her mind." Freestyling is when an artist picks a simple design and then enhances the tattoo without following a preset pattern.

Sophomore and Exercise Science major Shelly Stemper said she got her tattoo as a way to bond with her older brother. "He's nine years older than me," she said. "Before I started school at UMD, I went to visit him in Arizona for two weeks. On the spur of the moment, we decided to get tattoos together." Stemper looked for a tattoo that would be meaningful. "Once, on a family trip to Denali National Park in Alaska, we saw wolves and wolf pups. I chose the wolf paws because I have always loved wolves, and it reminds me of that family trip."

Most UMD students accept and even embrace the art of tattooing. According to the survey, only 11 of the 201 surveyed were opposed to tattoos (6 female, 5 male). Tattoos are certain to be part of our culture for years to come, and due to the human desire to express oneself, tattoos promise to grow in diversity.

UMD Survey Results

201 Total Surveyed – 52 (26%) have tattoos, October 2009

5 Independents
9 Others
10 Republicans
27 Democrats
1 answered all on political standing

Of the 201 students surveyed, 11 people were opposed to tattoos (6 female, 5 male)

40 have tattoos (35% of the females surveyed, 20% of all surveyed)
Females: Political Standing
* 24 Democrats
* 2 Independents
* 5 Other
* 8 Republicans
* 1 Answered All

12 have tattoos (14% of the males surveyed, 6% of all surveyed)
Males: Political Standing
* 3 Democrats
* 3 Independents
* 4 Other
* 2 Republicans

Written by UMD students Alicia Stockard, Katie Appel, and Donna O'Neill.


UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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