Political beliefs of academics

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Political beliefs of academics could use some help. Please research the article's assertions. Whatever is credible should be sourced, and what is not should be removed.

There is much talk in countries including the U.S. 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 indoctrinating the youth!" gambit is tied to an Evil Liberal Science Conspiracy gambit.

Are professors actually socialist/liberal?[edit]

In reality, US professors truly are more socialist or liberal than the general population; there are some plausible causes:

  1. The more educated a person becomes, the more the person has to think. As a result, the person is better equipped to notice the hypocrisy and outright bullshit of authoritarian or fundamentalist ideology (and so-called "traditional values" when it consists of these things). In the USA, socialists and social-liberals are the most educated ideological demographics.[1][note 1]
  2. Institutions of higher education (and to a lesser extent, college graduates themselves) in the United States tend to be more concentrated in urban areas.[2][3] There is a consistent and globally-observed urban–rural political divide,Wikipedia even going back to ancient times.[note 2] Plenty of explanations for this divide have been put forth, but one of the more compelling ones (especially in this instance) is that people who live in urban areas may be more likely to experience a diversity in the types of people they know,[note 3] lending itself to open-mindedness towards people of other ethnicities and lifestyles.
  3. Neoliberals and Neoconservatives are attracted in greater numbers by the larger salaries (briberyWikipedia) on offer in the financial sector, in ideologically-aligned think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, or in institutions like Hillsdale College[4] (a sponsor on shows like The Mark Levin Show) or Liberty University. The economics departments of some public institutions — such as Auburn University and George Mason University — also have a reputation for their Neoliberal advocacy, but in general, people with these beliefs are more likely to prefer the higher salaries offered outside the public sector.
  4. The very few professors who are not tolerant of other viewpoints and/or populations (Mary Daly, for example) are usually Tankies, Libertarians, or Nazis, as noted below, and in the long-term, a campus can sustain only one intolerant point-of-view.[citation needed]
  5. Many teachers are part of a union and many more are government employees[note 4] — both of these categories tend to support workers' rights and to advocate democracy rather than rule by inherited wealth.
  6. Highest-quintile intelligence is strongly associated with altruistic motivation, so Neoliberal and Neoconservative ideologues are very rare among this group across all subjects — and indeed, internationally. 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.[5]

Effect on students[edit]

As with most 'brainwashing' claims, the supposed effects of teacher bias are highly dubious and at most amount to an indirect influence over the students' terms of reference and quick-recall heuristics. The likelihood of it influencing fundamental beliefs and deep thoughts is, as always, pretty minimal given the other external and internal influences affecting them (background, social group, media consumption, personal taste). According to a Washington Post op-ed by ideological Conservative (and hence skeptical anti-ideologue) 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.[6]

Or in other words, despite the personal beliefs of professors, academia lacks a "systemic bias" in favor of Socialism. This view is not universally held, however, as professors such as the Democratic-Party Neoliberal KC JohnsonWikipedia have pointed out curricula in several humanities departments which are slanted towards a Socialist point of view and hiring patterns that clearly discriminate against Neoliberal and Neoconservative 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.[7][8]

Some radical professors are, of course, very open about the fact that they are in academia to grind a political and/or ideological axe and train their ideological successors, but this does not translate to a giant secret conspiracy involving all Socialist and Nationalist professors.[citation NOT needed] If there actually are secret conspiracies in academia to mint students into good little foot-soldiers for their causes, they're simultaneously doing an amazingly good job at remaining secret and failing epically at their stated purpose.

One of the popular claims is that these professors are cogs in a Democratic political machine. However, only 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'.[9]


By discipline[edit]

Not all academic departments have discernable political leanings.[6] 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 about evenly split.

Carnegie University survey[edit]

This 1989 survey is somewhat dated. Libertarian Peter G. Klein used this article for his rant on socialist economists, which of course placed liberals and communists in the same camp since democracy is a slippery slope to communism.[10] 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:

University of Toronto survey[edit]

This study, which was based on 1999 data from the North American Academic Study 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:[6]

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%

UCLA survey[edit]

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."[11] It further indicated that radicals on either side of the spectrum make up less than 6% of all professors, although the vast majority of these were 'far-left'.

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

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Pew Research Center. (2005). Beyond Red vs. Blue. 7 September.
  2. Elin Johnson (December 19, 2019). "Education Deserts". Times Higher Education.
  3. Richard Florida (October 31, 2018). "The Talent Dividend in Urban and Rural Areas". Bloomberg.
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Hillsdale College.
  5. Scholarly elites orient left, irrespective of academic affiliation. Idan S. Solon. Intelligence. Volume 51, July–August 2015, Pages 119–130.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Kurtz, H. (29 March 2005). College Faculties a Most Liberal Lot, Study Finds. The Washington Post. 7 September, 2007.
  7. http://www.mindingthecampus.org/2012/08/no_conservatives_pleasewere_co/
  8. https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2005/05/23/johnson
  9. Judis, J. B. (19 June, 2007). Back to the Future: The re-emergence of the emerging Democratic majority. The American Prospect. 7 September, 2007.
  10. Oh, the Mises Institute.
  11. Shea, C. (12 October, 2003). What liberal academia?, Boston Globe. 7 September, 2007.


  1. Or, as we at RationalWiki like to say, "Reality has a liberal bias" (with "liberal" being used here in the U.S. sense, e.g. skewing to the left of the political spectrum).
  2. For example, in ancient Rome.
  3. Given the much higher population and the greater accumulation of different communities in your typical city, there is more opportunity to run across people who are different from you.
  4. Which comes first: the chicken, or the egg?