Political beliefs of academics

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There is much talk in the U.S. these days about the political beliefs of academics. Some people hold the view that professors and other academic figures form a liberal or left-wing cabal that practices evil professor values and subverts the minds of the young.

Often, a "professors are liberalizing the youth!" gambit is tied to an Evil Liberal Science Conspiracy gambit.


[edit] Are professors actually liberal?

In reality, American professors are generally more liberal or left-wing than the general population; five causes for this phenomenon have been cited:

  1. The more educated a person becomes, the more the person has to think. As a result, the person is more likely to question authoritarian or fundamentalist ideology or traditional values. There is a correlation between (American) liberalism and education, with liberals and left-wingers being the most educated ideological demographic in the U.S.[1]
  2. Right-leaning people are attracted in greater numbers by the larger salaries to be found in private employment, so fewer enter academia as opposed to right wing think tanks like the Heritage Foundation or right-leaning institutions like Hillsdale College (a sponsor on shows like The Mark Levin Show) or Liberty University, as well as the economics departments of public institutions Auburn University and George Mason University, known for their libertarian leanings.
  3. The very few professors who are not tolerant of other viewpoints and/or populations (Mary Daly, for example) are usually of the left-wing persuasion, as noted below, and in the long-term a campus can sustain only one intolerant point-of-view.
  4. Many teachers are part of a union and many more are government employees, both of which tend to support strong government and labor rights for obvious reasons.
  5. Highest quintile intelligence is strongly associated with prosocial beliefs, and left-leaning ideals are extremely common in this group in every nation, regardless of academic culture or history. This tends to invalidate claims that self-selection or hiring bias effect the prevelance of left-leaning individuals in academia, as highest quintile intelligence scores are probably required very common in faculty positions. [2]

[edit] Effect on students

However, the political beliefs of professors do not in and of themselves affect the outlook of students. According to an Washington Post op-ed by right-winger Howard Kurtz:

When asked about the findings, Jonathan Knight, director of academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors, said, "The question is how this translates into what happens within the academic community on such issues as curriculum, admission of students, evaluation of students, evaluation of faculty for salary and promotion." Knight said he isn't aware of "any good evidence" that personal views are having an impact on campus policies.[3]

Or, to put it in basic jargon, despite the personal beliefs of professors, academia lacks a "systemic bias" in favor of left-wing viewpoints. This view is not universally held, however, as professors such as KC JohnsonWikipedia's W.svg—who is himself a very ardent and vocal Democrat—have pointed out curricula in several humanities departments that are obviously slanted towards a liberal point of view and hiring patterns that clearly discriminate against conservative professors. His chief concern, however, is with students specifically training to become public school teachers; although he does mention the possibility of similar mindsets outside this area, he does not cite instances of this actually happening.[4][5]

Some radical professors are, of course, very open about the fact that they are in academia to grind a political or ideological axe and train their ideological successors, but this does not translate to a giant secret conspiracy involving all liberal and left-wing professors. If there were actually any sort of secret conspiracy among all the liberals and left-wingers in academia to mint students into good little foot-soldiers for their own cause, it would be the most miserably failed conspiracy since the invention of right-wing paranoia.

One of the popular claims is that these professors are cogs in a Democratic political machine. However, half of college students identify as Democrats, and only 52% of college-educated professionals (including professors) vote Democratic, which isn't quite the oft-painted image of a liberal hivemind.[6]

[edit] Statistics

[edit] By discipline

Not all academic departments have discernable political leanings.[3] Among professors, less than 20% of whom identify as conservative, liberals are most prominent in the social sciences and humanities. Professors in engineering and business departments are largely split.

[edit] University of Toronto survey

This survey asked 1,634 full-time employed faculty members at four year institutions across the U.S. However, the sample was largely limited to full-time social-science and humanities professors, which skewed it:[3]

All professors Ivy League professors
Liberal 72% 87%
Moderate 13% 0%
Conservative 15% 13%
Liberal professors by discipline
Humanities 81%
Social Science 75%
Engineering 51%
Business 49%

[edit] UCLA survey

According to Christopher Shea of the Boston Globe, a 2001 survey carried out by the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute "identified a distinct leftward tilt in academia, but a smaller one than you might expect."[7] It further indicated that extremists on either side of the spectrum make up less than 6% of all professors, although the vast majority of these were left-wingers.

All professors
Far-left 5.3%
Liberal 42.3%
Moderate 34.4%
Conservative 17.7%
Far-right 0.3%

[edit] Carnegie University survey

This 1989 survey is somewhat dated. Libertarian Peter G. Klein used this article for his rant on socialist economists, which placed liberals and communists in the same camp.[8] It indicated that over 70% of tenure-tracked professors were liberal, while less than 20% were conservative.

Liberal professors by discipline
Public Affairs 88%
Ethnic Studies 76%
Anthropologists 72%
Political Scientists 72%
Economists 63%

The study also indicated that:

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] References

  1. Pew Research Center. (2005). Beyond Red vs. Blue. 7 September.
  2. Scholarly elites orient left, irrespective of academic affiliation. Idan S. Solon. Intelligence. Volume 51, July–August 2015, Pages 119–130.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Kurtz, H. (29 March 2005). College Faculties a Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds. The Washington Post. 7 September, 2007.
  4. http://www.mindingthecampus.org/2012/08/no_conservatives_pleasewere_co/
  5. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/05/23/johnson
  6. Judis, J. B. (19 June, 2007). Back to the Future: The re-emergence of the emerging Democratic majority. The American Prospect. 7 September, 2007.
  7. Shea, C. (12 October, 2003). What liberal academia?, Boston Globe. 7 September, 2007.
  8. Oh, the Mises Institute.
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