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

Logan Strother, Spencer Piston, Ezra Golberstein, Sarah E. Gollust, Daniel Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2015514117
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 12 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. We thank Giancarlo Visconti, Ben Johnson, and the anonymous referees for helpful comments on previous drafts; those members of campus staff who helped collect administrative data; and the students who participated in the surveys. A research grant from the William T. Grant Foundation funded this study, and Survey Sciences Group, LLC administered the survey data collection process.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.


  • Higher education
  • Political ideology
  • Political science
  • Socialization

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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