Liberals outnumber conservatives on college faculties by a wide margin, according to a new study. While such a revelation is hardly novel, this study goes beyond party affiliations among university faculties. Not only do liberals fill the classrooms, evidence suggests that they control hiring committees, by preferring liberals over conservatives.
The study, “Politics and Professional Achievement Among College Faculty,” appeared in 2005’s first issue of The Forum. The authors are Stanley Rothman of Smith College, Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto, and Robert Lichter [pictured] of the Center of Media and Public Affairs.
Left-of-center professors dominate the academy. The study found that 72% of professors identify themselves as left or liberal, and 15% identify themselves as right or conservatives. Half of the professors surveyed considered themselves Democrats. One of ten was Republican.
The political composition of science professors, who are often thought of as apolitical, are beginning to resemble the professors of humanities and the social sciences, usually the most liberal of all professors. “Three out of four biologists and computer scientists now place themselves to the left of center, as do about two thirds of mathematicians, chemists, and physicists,” according to the survey. In physics departments, there are 10 Democrats for every Republican.
Republicans are not the minority in every academic department. There is an equal number of Democrats and Republicans among business faculty. In agriculture departments Republicans outnumber Democrats 31% to 24%.
While the results corroborate what previous studies of faculty have found, this study investigates the frequent charges that conservatives are the victims of discrimination in hiring processes. Those who deny that such discrimination is rampant dismiss individual accounts as anecdotal and not representative of higher education at-large. While this study does not make any conclusions concerning discrimination, it does conclude that claims of ideological bias cannot, given the evidence, be ignored.
Being a conservative does not disqualify a job candidate, but it doesn’t help. The most important factor in the hiring process is academic achievement, followed by political ideology.
There is no advantage or disadvantage accorded to blacks or homosexuals in the job process. The study did conclude that “women and religiously observant Christians are disadvantaged in their placement in the institutional hierarchy, after taking scholarly achievement into account.”
The study, which was based on data from a 1999 North American Academic Study Survey, looked at 1643 professors at 183 four-year universities. It included schools of all calibers. Professors responded at a rate of 72%. For comparison, the Klein-Western survey of ideology on campus—which has received much attention of late—had a response rate of 30%.
Larry Scholer is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.