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Is There a Liberal Bias Among American Professors?

Democrats dominate academia across nearly all disciplines.

One often hears that members of the American intelligentsia are strongly left leaning, the most obvious manifestations of which would be the mainstream media as well as academia (cf. David Horowitz's Indoctrination U). Is this a veridical premise? In today's post, I'd like to discuss a study conducted by Christopher F. Cardiff and Daniel B. Klein wherein they analyzed the registered political party affiliations of American professors at 11 Californian colleges and universities. The chosen institutions spanned a wide range of geographic areas and school types: Santa Clara University and University of San Diego (Catholic schools); Point Loma Nazarene University and Pepperdine University (Protestant schools); Claremont McKenna College (small school with heterogeneous political bent); San Diego State University (large public state school); and California Institute of Technology, UCSD, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, and Stanford (a mix of public and private elite research universities).

The researchers obtained data that allowed them to calculate the Democrat to Republican ratio (D:R) across all 11 institutions and broken down by faculties and disciplines. For example, common wisdom suggests that professors in the social sciences and humanities are particularly likely to be left leaning. Here are some of the key results (as reported in Tables 2, 3, and 4 in the article on pp. 243 and 246-247):

Broken Down by Institution

UC Berkeley 8.7 (adjusted to account for a less comprehensive dataset)
UCLA 7.2
Stanford 6.7 (adjusted to account for a less comprehensive dataset)
UCSD 6.6
Santa Clara 6.0
Caltech 4.2
SDSU 4.1
USD 3.6
CMC 1.8
PLNU 1.0
Pepperdine 0.9

The D:R across all 11 schools was 5.0. In Table 1 of their article (p. 239), Cardiff and Klein report D:R ratios for several other studies spanning universities and colleges (across a broader range of geographic areas). In all cases, Democrats dominate academia in profound ways ranging from a low of 1.6 to 75 (depending on the study in question).

Do you think that the ratio changes as a function of a professor's faculty/discipline? The short answer is an emphatic yes!

Broken Down by Faculty Type

Humanities 10.0
Arts 7.6
Social Sciences 6.8
Hard Sciences/Math 6.3
Medicine/Nursing/Health 4.8
Social Professional 4.4
Engineering 2.5
Business 1.3
Military/Sports 0.7

Broken Down by Department

Sociology 44.0
Ethnic Studies 16.3
Performing Arts 16.0
Neurosciences 13.1
Languages & Literature 11.9
Psychiatry 11.8
History 10.9
Biology 10.7
Anthropology 10.5
Art 8.8
Psychology 8.0
Religious Studies 8.0
Linguistics 7.5
Health 7.3
Political Science 6.5
Mathematics 5.7
Social Welfare & Policy 5.2
Earth Sciences 5.0
Education 5.0
Materials Science 5.0
Philosophy 5.0
Music 4.9
Physics 4.2
Chemistry 4.1
Communication 4.0
Medicine 4.0
Law 4.0
Economics 2.8
Civil Environmental
Engineering 2.8
Bio. & Chemical
Engineering 2.6
Electrical Engineering 2.5
Computer Science 2.3
Mechanical & Aerospace
Engineering 2.2
Nursing 2.1
Management 1.8
Marketing 1.7
Accounting 1.2
Physical Education 1.1
Information Systems 1.1
General Business 1.0
Finance 0.5
Military Science 0.0

Thus, in 39 out of 42 disciplines, the D:R ratio is greater than 1. Of note, the psychology D:R was 8.0 (see the bolded row in the list immediately above). Not surprisingly, psychologists are quite liberal in their political views but not nearly as much as sociologists!

What are your thoughts regarding these findings?

Note: My apologies for the slight misalignment of the numbers in the latter lists. It's tough to get these perfectly aligned via the Psychology Today interface!

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