Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


David Jones


Michael Fortner

Subject Categories

American Politics


Polarization, Partisanship, Higher Education


Political polarization has been growing exponentially over the past few decades, not only with political elites and party activists, but also in the mass public. During the same period of time, the United States has also seen an exponential increase in higher education attainment. This paper examines the possible relationship higher education and elite political polarization may have in regards to the increasing polarization within the American electorate. Additionally, I aim to extrapolate how collegiate institutions create an increase in ideological polarization, as well as affective partisanship, while synthesizing Political Science studies on the effects of college education towards political identity with Social Psychology theories such as Social Learning Strategies and Social Impact Theory. Through this synthesis, powerful social forces and an increase in issue orientation combine to create a strong bond of ideological orientation through advanced knowledge in public policy issues and a political identity defined with oppositional animus toward out-group political parties, which lasts well after an individual graduates from post-secondary schooling.