Do liberal arts colleges make students more liberal? Some initial evidence
The effect of attending college on students’ political ideology has been a controversial topic for many decades. In this study, we explored the relationship between attending a liberal arts college and students’ political views. Compared to their counterparts at other 4-year institutions, liberal arts college students began postsecondary education with more liberal political views, but also made great changes toward liberal political views over 4 years of college. These greater gains persisted even in the presence of important confounding influences such as pre-college political views. In addition, our analyses suggested a global effect of attendance at a liberal arts college on the development of liberal political views. Attempts to explain the causal mechanisms underlying this apparent institutional influence were only partially successful.
KeywordsCollege students Liberal arts education Political ideology Liberalism
This research was supported by a generous grant from the Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts at Wabash College to the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education at the University of Iowa. A more extensive version of the report on which this paper is based is available at Center for Research on Undergraduate Education (CRUE) (http://www2.education.uiowa.edu/centers/crue/default.aspx).
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