Funnily enough, even granting all those caveats, I would still agree with the study’s authors that college does not “indoctrinate” most students. Most students — like most Americans — take only a passing interest in politics if they take any interest in it at all. I would suspect that while the average student moves leftward as an undergraduate, to describe this change as “indoctrination” is to overstate it. But for those students who seek out positions of relative power on campus and real power in government and journalism afterward, there is no doubt that the leftward shift experienced in college is much more dramatic.
The portrait painted by some genuinely concerned conservatives and some cynical ones of all-encompassing leftist indoctrination on campus is misleading. Professors’ bias is a problem, but it is far from the biggest issue with campus political culture. Peer pressure and the resulting incentives for radicalization are the primary cause of a leftward shift in students’ politics over their college careers, and this shift is largely concentrated among the politically interested and “movers and shakers” in campus politics. The straw man of totalized “indoctrination” thus does conservatives a disservice: It gives liberal researchers an excuse to ignore the very real consequences of left-wing campus culture, an excuse they are all too willing to take advantage of.