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College roommates have a modest but significant influence on each other’s political ideology

OPEN Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America | 10 Jan 2021

L Strother, S Piston, E Golberstein, SE Gollust and D Eisenberg
Abstract
Does college change students' political preferences? While existing research has documented associations between college education and political views, it remains unclear whether these associations reflect a causal relationship. We address this gap in previous research by analyzing a quasi-experiment in which university students are assigned to live together as roommates. While we find little evidence that college students as a whole become more liberal over time, we do find strong evidence of peer effects, in which students' political views become more in line with the views of their roommates over time. This effect is strongest for conservative students. These findings shed light on the role of higher education in an era of political polarization.
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