Study: College Liberal Bias Learned From Peers

This story was written by KYLE MAISTRI, Independent Florida Alligator


A recent study reports that students' political beliefs become more liberal while in college and are swayed by friends rather than professors.

The study conducted by Higher Education Research Institute of the University of California monitored a change in thinking from freshman to junior year for about 15,000 students at 136 colleges.

The study found six years after graduation the number of people who called themselves conservative finally increased from 28.1 percent to 31.6 percent.

A recent study shows a longheld notion of college culture may be true: Students political beliefs become more liberal while attending college.

The liberal bias longassociated with college students has often been attributed to the influence of leftist professors, but the study from the Higher Education Research Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles, reports students liberal political leanings are most swayed by their friends.

The study monitored a change in thinking from freshman to junior year for nearly 15,000 students who enrolled at 136 colleges in 2004.

According to the study, the number of students who supported legalized abortion increased from 52 percent to 60 percent, while the support for legal marital status for gay couples jumped from 54 percent to 66 percent. Those in favor of increased defense spending fell from 34 percent to 25 percent.

Its simply a matter of the people that were exposed to on a daily basis, said John Chambers, a UF assistant psychology professor. We want to fit in with them, and we want to be in their good graces, so we change our behavior to do so.

The researchers explain the political shift with the lack of conservative peer groups on campuses across the nation.

Bryan Griffin, UF College Republicans chairman, said he feels the gap between liberal and conservative representation on campus is not a significant one.

Griffins explanation of the trend instead focused on the mindset of students.

I think a lot of college kids are reactionary, he said. A lot of people want to protest just to protest.

Chambers statements were largely consistent with Griffins claims.

Knowing that its expected that people are pretty liberal in their viewpoints on college campuses, people will try to outdo their friends or colleagues in terms of liberalness, Chambers said. If its considered desirable to be liberal on campus, then we will adjust our behaviors and beliefs to be more liberal.

What Chambers said he found especially interesting is even after leaving college, students will maintain their new political stance for a few years after graduation.

The study found six years after graduation, the number of people who called themselves conservative or far right eventually increased from 28.1 percent to 31.6 percent.