Phi Beta Cons


The Chronicle summarizes a new report on professors and politics:

Conservatives are a small minority within the American professoriate, according to a major study whose results were released on Saturday. The study — which is arguably the best-designed survey of American faculty beliefs since the early 1970s — found that only 9.2 percent of college instructors are conservatives, and that only 20.4 percent voted for George W. Bush in 2004.


  • Conservatives are rarest in the humanities (3.6 percent) and social sciences (4.9 percent), and most common in the health sciences (20.5 percent) and business (24.5 percent). Only 7.8 percent of instructors in the physical and biological sciences are conservatives, which is a sharp decline from the level found by Mr. Ladd and Mr. Lipset in the 1970s.
  • Faculty members broadly support the idea of political openness on campus. When asked whether “the goal of diversity should include fostering diversity of political views among faculty members,” 68.8 percent agreed. (That figure struck one participant in the symposium as disturbingly low. “Where are the other 31 percent?” asked Jonathan L. Zimmerman, a professor of the history of education at New York University. “What are they thinking?”) When asked whether “professors are as curious and open-minded today as they have ever been,” 79.9 percent of the total sample said yes — but 46.3 percent of the conservative respondents disagreed.

Astonishingly, the authors of the report seem to think that all is hunky-dory for conservatives on campus. Former Harvard president Larry Summers isn’t so sure:

“The data in this paper surprised me in the opposite direction that it surprised the authors,” said Mr. Summers, who is now a university professor at Harvard. “It made me think that there is even less ideological diversity in the American university than I had imagined.”
In his remarks, Mr. Summers concentrated on a subset of the data concerning elite, Ph.D.-granting universities. In humanities and social-science departments at those institutions, Mr. Summers pointed out, not a single instructor reported voting for President Bush in 2004.
“There is an overwhelming tilt toward the progressive side,” Mr. Summers said. “Compared to the underrepresentation of other groups whose underrepresentation is often stressed, the underrepresentation of conservatives appears to be rather substantially more, perhaps.”

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.


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