According to the Pew Research Center, the modern wave of political polarization began in 1994, and is the strongest today than it has ever been during the 23-year period. (2007) Polarization in the US party system is evidenced by several factors including: growing consistent partisan views, partisan antipathy, ideological bubbles, growing difference in preferences, a shrinking political center, and the lack of political compromise. (Pew Research Center 2014) The question I attempt to answer in this thesis is on the factors associated with political polarization within the millennial generation. One of the most pressing issues to this generation is what is known as the Student Loan Crisis, which is the $1.45 Trillion dollars Americans owe to private and federal lenders to attend college. (StudentLoanHero.com). In this thesis, I argue that economic inequality, via the student loan crisis, contributes to political polarization within the millennial generation. My analysis takes place at the level of the individual. I conduct a statistical analysis using the 2016 American National Election Survey Dataset, to test whether political polarization, operationalized as ideological and partisan polarization, is associated with polarization on economic issues that I link to wealth inequality in the millennial generation, controlling for polarization on social issues, interest in politics, and income. The main finding is that party/ideological polarization is positive and significantly related to polarization on economic issues in the millennial generation; whether or not the Student Loan Crisis underlies this link requires further study.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Kinsey, Barbara


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Sciences


Political Science

Degree Program

American Politics


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Release Date

August 2018