Date of Award

2019

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Doug Reed

Second Advisor

Dr. Kevin Brennan

Third Advisor

Dr. Chris Brune

Abstract

This work will fall within the realm of political science, as a study of political socialization. People acquire political ideology through multiple aspects of life, with much acquisition occurring in childhood through early adulthood. In the year 2019, recorded political ideologies are more bimodal and extreme than at the end of the 20th century. Many have asked what is driving this phenomenon. This thesis further explores a single encompassing idea: Could increasing college attendance rates be in any way driving this political polarization? College attendance rates and political polarization have increased jointly over the past seventy years (as the charts on the next page show), but many disconnected factors have risen as well. In fact, this idea runs counter to many of the truisms of an increasingly pluralistic society. Being exposed to those with ideas different than one's own at a college campus is to drive moderation, understanding, and civility according to commonly held wisdom.

Various factors may be changing the outcome of this common wisdom. Through social media and the internet, opportunities exist for students to increasingly divide themselves into ideological echo chambers. As well, some accuse colleges of increasingly pushing ideological uniformity. A recent study of forty top universities found that democratic voting professors outnumbered republican voting professors at a ratio of eleven and a half to one. Various measures of these student's political ideologies will be examined, notably self-description, issue viewpoints, and levels of political discussion and volunteerism.

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