Thursday, July 20, 2006

Don't trust social science researchers: A colleague told me once that research shows that one's college experience does not affect political orientation. I told him I was skeptical of this idea since colleges live to crank out fresh liberals. I know most professors put people to sleep, but you mean to tell me four years of indoctrination does not work? Well, let's see what the all-wise, all-knowing GSS says. I looked at the question about your politics ranging from extremely liberal (1) through extremely conservative (7).
Here are the means for freshman through seniors:

Mean "conservatism" score:
Freshman 4.47
Sophomores 3.53
Juniors 3.46
Seniors 3.40

We see here a very clear move left as one accumulates years of college. The freshman average is between moderate (4) and slightly conservative (5), while seniors are between moderate and slightly liberal (3).

I recommend that you folks do as much data analysis of your own as you can because, frankly, I don't trust social science researchers.


  1. Is it longitudinal? Liberals could just complete more years of schooling. There is no doubt a similar trend with black and hispanic %, but that doesn't mean college makes you white.

    Not that I disagree with your theory.

  2. Anonymous10:24 PM

    Some liberals might try to spin this around to say that it is evidence that conservatives drop out, or that people are ignorant before college and that this is just the veils from their eyes being lifted (I think it was the Frankfurt School that talked about false consciousness and cultural hegemony that prevented the inevitable class revolt from occurring).

    Steve Sailer has proposed ( ) that someone compare the ratio of income to years of education. He believes that conservatives will be on the upper end of the scale and liberals will be on the lower, as a conservative will spend time in school in order to earn more money while liberals are interested in a different status game, or something to that effect.

  3. Anonymous2:37 PM

    I must be in a small minority of people who got more conservative during my college years. I've gone from centrist to neocon to paleocon.

  4. Anonymous11:46 PM

    I had a similar experience at Berkeley. I lived in a student co-op for several years (the residents of which are much more liberal than the Berkeley average). I probably would have considered myself a neolibertarian when I got there. By the time I left, I was a full-fledged traditionalist reactionary.

  5. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Speaking of trust, any way to an get ethnic breakdown of "trust levels"? Is this in the GSS, or have there been any studies?

  6. Jason: Your point is good one. My analysis was not longitudinal because samples sizes are too small for single years. So what I did for a check was to average the political orientation for 19 year old freshman over the period 1990-99. Then I did the same for 20 year old sophomores from 1991-2000, and so on. To be honest, I'm not sure if this solves the problem, but here are the results:

    F 4.22
    Soph 3.87
    J 3.92
    Sen 3.75

  7. Anonymous: I believe has something on trust levels and ethnicity. I know he found that people with higher social status are more trusting.

  8. Anonymous4:13 PM

    Disagree with much on your posts, but here's an anecdote. A friend who received her PhD in art history at an Ivy and taught at a few NY area schools said that among nearly a hundred colleagues, not one could be describes as not leftist in thought. As a middle of the road Democrat, she is regardes as a conservative by friends. Nature and nurture? - If the degree was an MBA, it would be different.


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