Are College Students Really Liberal? An Exploration of Student Political Ideology and Attitudes Toward Policies Impacting Minorities

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We explore the relationship between college students’ professed political ideologies and their attitudes toward policies generally as well as those policies seen as disproportionately impacting minorities specifically. Common perception holds that a college education is associated with more liberal political ideologies. There is evidence to support this belief, but there are theoretical and methodological reasons to question this perception. While student samples are often used, nationally representative samples of current college students are not. We, therefore, investigate the relationship between college students’ attitudes and their professed political ideologies by utilizing a survey administered to students enrolled in colleges/universities across the U.S. This survey takes into consideration the type of institution (public, private, liberal arts, regional, etc.). Relying upon a theoretical foundation based upon the Basic Student Engagement Model, our results suggest a contrast between professed political ideology and attitudes toward social policies generally and policies seen as benefiting minorities specifically. We do, however, find consistency between professed ideology and economic policies.