Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Valde, Kathleen S.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Communication


Higher education faculty have long struggled with getting students to participate meaningfully in classroom and campus dialogues. Some students avoid participating due to fear or anxiety of communicating with others. Certain topics, such as politics, can cause higher degrees of apprehension. Political minority groups can experience greater apprehension when communicating with majority groups. One minority group in academia with the potential to self-censor is the conservative student.

This study used state-based communication apprehension (McCroskey, 1984) and political communication apprehension (PCA, Jones-Carmack, 2019) as theoretical backings to explore how conservative opinion expression and self-censorship in academic settings might change over time. The semi-structured life world interview technique was used to better understand 17 self-identified conservative college students’ perceptions of political opinion sharing. The retrospective interviewing technique (Huston et al., 1981) was used to track turning points that positively and negatively impacted participants’ willingness to share opinions throughout their college careers. The results suggest that all participants experienced PCA. Four different fears related to conservative opinion sharing were inductively derived. The results also suggest that willingness to express conservative opinions fluctuated throughout each participant’s college career, as three positive and three negative turning point types were identified. Implications, limitations, and directions for future research are offered.


91 pages




Northern Illinois University

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