Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Liberal Bias of Professors

An interesting article in the New York Times discusses recent research on the political leanings of professors in American colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, it notes that professors are more liberal than society as a whole. This is old news. The newer approach is the reasons given. Many liberals argue it is because conservatives are stupid and most professors are not stupid. Brad DeLong refers to the Republican Party as the Stupid Party on his blog.

Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse argue that professors are "politically typed" in a way similar to how nurses are "gender typed." The article states:

"Nearly half of the political lopsidedness in academia can be traced to four characteristics that liberals in general, and professors in particular, share: advanced degrees; a nonconservative religious theology (which includes liberal Protestants and Jews, and the nonreligious); an expressed tolerance for controversial ideas; and a disparity between education and income."

Liberals are more attracted to academia. Another argument is that once in place, it is difficult to change things because professors at a university decide who can be hired and tend to hire people like themselves. When I was at LSU in the late 1980s, a professor from the English Department wrote in the student newspaper that he thought it would not be possible for either a Republican or a Christian to become part of the faculty of the department there. (He noted that he was neither but thought the department should be open to people of other views.) It was not true of the Economics Department at LSU since there were a number of Christians and a number of Republicans in the department. (These were separate but overlapping sets.) It is also certainly not true about Christians in the English Department at Hope College since Hope is a Christian college. However, Republicans may be nonexistent there.

In some areas, professors can be very narrow minded. As the blogs of DeLong and Krugman show, liberal professors can also be mean, hateful, and intolerant.


  1. John,

    Great post. I agree that the concern is not liberal bias as much as the loss of civil discourse, or even the lack of discourse. Working in acedemia, I would hope my colleague can set an example for how to engage in civil discourse.

  2. Yikes, the English dept at Hope is absent
    any republicans? What possible reason?
    Perhaps affirmative action would rectify
    the situation. Your uncle hereby applies.

    Phoenix Phil

  3. But you have to know something about English!