Since the 1940s research has suggested that higher education has a liberalizing influence on sociopolitical orientation, although none has demonstrated how this might occur. In the U.S. there is an increasing trend among conservative politicians and media to depreciate the value of a college education, by alleging that college turns people into liberals. To examine the charge that ‘college turns people into liberals’, I conducted biographical narrative interviews with 24 American college-educated young adults who changed their sociopolitical orientation from conservative to liberal. Utilizing Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and habitus clivé, and grounded theory methods of analysis, I developed a processual model of such transformation. Findings from this study refute narratives of professorial or institutional indoctrination. Instead, the model indicates a more complex process of habitus transformation, that in most cases begins before college students arrive on campus. This study is important because a successful democracy requires an educated populace.

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