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Does the Field of Study Influence Students' Political Attitudes?

Listed author(s):
  • Potrafke, Niklas
  • Fischer, Mira
  • Ursprung, Heinrich

We investigate whether the field of study influences university students’ political attitudes. To disentangle self-selection from learning effects, we first investigate whether the fields of study chosen by the incoming students correlate with their political attitudes. In a second step we explore how the political attitudes change as the students progress in their studies. Our results are based on a German pseudo-panel survey, the sample size of which exceeds that of comparable student surveys by an order of magnitude. We find systematic differences between the students’ political attitudes across eight fields of study. These differences can in most cases be attributed to self-selection. A notable exception is economics. Even though self-selection is also important, training in economics has an unambiguous influence on the political attitudes: by the time of graduation, economics students are about 6.2 percentage points more likely than they were as freshmen to agree with liberal-democratic policy positions.

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Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order with number 79934.

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Date of creation: 2013
Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:79934
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.socialpolitik.org/
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  1. George Stigler, 1959. "The Politics of Political Economists," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 522-532.
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  6. Bauman, Yoram & Rose, Elaina, 2011. "Selection or indoctrination: Why do economics students donate less than the rest?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 79(3), pages 318-327, August.
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  8. Niclas Berggren & Henrik Jordahl & Charlotta Stern, 2009. "The Political Opinions of Swedish Social Scientists," Finnish Economic Papers, Finnish Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 75-88, Autumn.
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  11. Bryan Caplan, 2007. "Introduction to The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies," Introductory Chapters,in: The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies Princeton University Press.
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  15. repec:cup:apsrev:v:91:y:1997:i:01:p:45-65_23 is not listed on IDEAS
  16. Mark Elchardus & Bram Spruyt, 2009. "The Culture of Academic Disciplines and the Sociopolitical Attitudes of Students: A Test of Selection and Socialization Effects," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 446-460.
  17. Selten, Reinhard & Ockenfels, Axel, 1998. "An experimental solidarity game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 34(4), pages 517-539, March.
  18. Ariel Rubinstein, 2006. "A Sceptic's Comment on the Study of Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 1-9, 03.
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