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Liberal Professors Outnumber Conservative Faculty 5 to 1.

January 17, 2016

By Paul Homewood  





Universities have for a number of years been hotbeds of left wing agitation, but a survey finds that left wing bias has grown even worse in recent years, as the Daily Signal reveals:


Professors in higher education have become notably more liberal during the past 25 years, according to a recent study, and academics predict that the trend isn’t likely to slow any time soon.

During the past quarter-century, academia has seen a nearly 20-percent jump in the number of professors who identify as liberal. That increase has created a lopsided ideological spread in higher education, with liberal professors now outpacing their conservative counterparts by a ratio of roughly 5 to 1.

In 2014, 60 percent of professors identified as “liberal” or “far left,” according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, as reported by The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog.”

Compare that with 1990 survey data, when only 42 percent said the same.

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While academia has shifted dramatically to the left, professors on the right have dropped off.

The number of professors who identified as “conservative” and “far right” during the same time span fell by nearly 6 percent, while the number of “moderate” academics dropped by 13 percentage points.




Matthew Woessner, an associate professor of political science and public policy at Penn State Harrisburg, studies political trends in higher education and advocates increased diversity of viewpoints with a group of academics who call themselves Heterodox Academy.

Woessner, who says he is a conservative Republican, said the study raises important questions on whether the liberal tilt that has persisted in higher education is becoming more pronounced, and if so, what impact that has on the  national political discourse.

Daniel Klein, a professor of economics at George Mason University, said the reported 5-to-1 ratio is “not very meaningful” because the terms “liberal” and “conservative” have become “exceedingly troubled.”

Instead, Klein predicted that the imbalance between faculty who vote Democratic compared with those who vote Republican is closer to 9 to 1 or even 10 to 1.

Either way, as professors have become more liberal, they’ve shifted far to the left of the general public and their students, Woessner told The Daily Signal.

A Gallup poll released earlier this month found that 38 percent of Americans identify as conservative, versus 24 percent who identify as liberal.

And while the study by the Higher Education Research Institute reported that liberal students outpace conservative students by nearly 10 percent, roughly half identify as moderate. This has created a wide ideological gap between professors and students.


Graph: Washington Post. Used with permission from Christopher Ingraham.

Graphics: The Washington Post. Used with permission of Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog.


In 2014, college professors were roughly 30 percentage points more likely to identify as liberal than were college freshmen. Compare that to the 1990 findings, when professors were 16 percentage points more likely to label themselves as liberal than were their freshmen students. Woessner said:

This raises critical questions of whether students are getting a balanced education—not because there’s some conspiracy to block out conservative ideas, but merely because the people who are teaching are either not familiar with or don’t embrace conservative ideas.

Even when faculty attempt to present an issue in a balanced and impartial manner, he said, personal biases naturally bleed into material.

According to 2009 data from the Higher Education Research Institute, the number of students who said their political views were “liberal” or “far left” jumped 9.2 percentage points from freshman to senior year.




Carson Holloway, an associate professor of political science at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said the imbalance is most notable in the humanities and social science fields, where the battle of ideas is most important.

Holloway, who also chairs the Council of Academic Advisers at The Heritage Foundation, said the average political scientist in the U.S. is a “mainstream” liberal.

The problem with this, he said, is that a lot of “impressive” thought stemming from Europe fostered conservative ideology, but because not many in the academy represent that tradition, students get a skewed view.

“They might tend to think that conservatism is not an intellectual tradition because they don’t see any professors who hold to it, so there’s a distortion that emerges there,” Holloway told The Daily Signal.

Woessner said the students who are harmed the most by the bias in academia are the liberal ones:

Conservatives benefit from having liberal ideas to expand their horizons and challenge their thinking, but ideologically liberal students get their ideas reinforced. This means they’re not growing intellectually because they don’t have the exposure to other ideas to make them think.

Woessner said an equal number of liberal and conservative professors isn’t necessary for higher education to work well, but at least a small minority of faculty on campus should hold different views.

Conservatives who want to become involved in higher education face challenges, he said, and universities should encourage more right-leaning academics to become professors to help shrink the ideological gap.

“The goal should not be an even split, because that’s probably impossible, but to create a space for enough conservative ideas that students are exposed at least nominally to these other perspectives,” Woessner said.

And although a prescriptive fix to obtain greater balance won’t happen on its own, Klein said, “donors, students and parents should vote with their dollars, and voters should vote with their votes against pouring taxpayer money into a leftist apparatus.”

  1. David Richardson permalink
    January 17, 2016 11:54 am

    Well as they say – what is the opposite of diversity? – university.

    Let us not get into political arguments. But I don’t think anyone can be surprised that academia is left-leaning. The whole of education is left-leaning. Perhaps the gap between the teacher and the taught is more interesting.

    I don’t see myself as left or right. I think I seek fairness and truth – others (mostly on the left) might not see me that way. I will live with that.

    What is disappointing is the move in the last 50 years of universities from being the bastions of free speech to the bastions of the closed authoritarian mind. It is clear in the climate debate, but also in many other fields as well.

  2. January 17, 2016 12:12 pm

    Surely this is because the ‘liberal’ professors cannot get jobs in industry where logic and common sense are required. The downside is of course that as in my case we are taught by lefties who are ever critical of our attempts to widen our knowledge.

  3. Dorian permalink
    January 17, 2016 12:26 pm

    You can blame tenure for this situation. Tenure was supposed to protect those with controversial or antithetical opinions. However, shield laws like tenure only protect orthodoxy. Liberalism has always been antagonistic to a competitive pedagogy, their reasoning has always been distorted towards unifying an inherently biased universal pedagogic monism. Thus, you will only see education at all levels become more and more Liberal (read Socialistic), because argumentation and competitive thought is an anathema to them. To a Liberal/Socialist, rhetoric is a language device where people discuss and argue how to achieve common thought, and worse social monism, and, not about using language to analyse competitive theories and surmount dogma and baseless orthodoxy and provide social diversity.

    And now this Liberal orthodoxy that has been growing in the our educational institutions for the past few hundred years has reached critical mass. To keep this cancerous Liberal Thought going in our universities and schools it has become corrupt. Before there were too few of these bigots and zealots to matter, but now there are so many of them, they are starving of funds, for they have idle hands. Thus the growth of ridiculous theories like Global Warming are now created, just so they can feed their corrupt congeries.

    You want more balanced education? Then get rid of tenure and all other shield laws. Open education to the light of knowledge.

  4. January 17, 2016 1:16 pm

    My true story. I returned to WV to care for my parents. I had worked at the Smithsonian Institution in the US National Herbarium. When WVU, my alma mater, told me I could only be a secretary with an MA, I returned to UNC and completed a PhD in taxonomy/ecosystematics. In 1994 I was asked to interview for head of the WVU Herbarium. I received a phone call at the interview (no one knew I was there) and a voice with a phoney WV accent asked who “gave” a WV woman a PhD? This was the dept. where I had graduated cum laude. He then said his name was “Walter Mitty”(would not have fooled me from jr. high forward). At that point I asked who was on the phone and found it was the head of the search committee. The rest of the day was designed to make me lose my temper, but I did not. I had known these people and been in a seminar group with them. The advertised salary had been drastically lowered and teaching removed for me. The dept. chairman (from Wales) then told me that if it did not work out, he could use a secretary. A week later I received a phone call from “Walter Mitty” saying I could not be hired as I was the “wrong politics” and furthermore, “we have to have someone who will do and say whatever the environmentalists say.” He also berated me for not taking “his” phone call seriously. I had just begun to care for my late mother and did that for 7 years. I taught at a nearby college for a friend who periodically took off for somewhere in the world and also assisted teaching dendrology (tree id.) in the Div. of Forestry at WVU. Almost every week, some leftist politician is on the radio bemoaning that the “talented and educated West Virginians leave the state”. Well, I came back and it cost me everything. What a waste and all for leftist politics. But I can look myself in the mirror without cringing over what I’ve done. The least diverse place in the United States in the American college campus.

    I posted something similar to this on the Daily Signal article yesterday. When I was at WVU, things were very different. My late father, a Republican, taught chemistry. His PhD was from MIT. My brothers’ PhD’s were chemistry, Cornell and physics, Univ. of Rochester. Today, young people have “conventional wisdom” drummed into them at every turn that if you are conservative you are mentally lacking, uneducated, hateful, bigoted and to be treated with open contempt. I inherited the very valuable 5 acre property where I grew up which my parents purchased in 1937. However, WVU is getting $19.94 from me in honor of that interview year. UNC will get little or nothing. I will not fund this type of crap. Rather, Hillsdale College in Michigan which accepts no government monies even in the form of student scholarships will be a huge beneficiary (and they don’t know it). They teach the Constitution to every student and have online courses which we can all take for free. Recent new ones are a series on Winston Churchill and C. S. Lewis.

    As a footnote. I believe that the word not to hire me came from a plant ecologist who had become provost. A vindictive person, he did not like my graduate major professor. He was demoted a number of years ago over the scandal when HE gave the daughter of then Governor, Joe Manchin, an eMBA degree for which she had only completed half the credits when it was discovered she did not have the degree she claimed as CEO of Mylan Pharmaceuticals. This is what you get when ethics is not the major pursuit.

  5. January 17, 2016 1:36 pm

    Thanks, Paul.
    Not that this is news, but it will be ongoing as long as people keep paying to have their kids indoctrinated and indebted.
    I hate to see the word “liberal” being used to mean the opposite.

  6. Bloke down the pub permalink
    January 17, 2016 2:00 pm

    How many of those professors ‘identified themselves as liberal’ because they wouldn’t otherwise have got the job?

  7. January 17, 2016 2:22 pm

    Green brainwashing starts in reception. I went to a presentation at my granddaughter’s primary school only to hear the most awful green rubbish spouted. Her mother, my daughter is a secondary school science teacher with a degree in astro physics. She doesn’t attack the prevailing orthodoxy but neither is she stupid. She saw the obvious flaws but wasn’t about to challenge colleagues. She is forced to teach the scientifically unsound national curriculum. Everyone from primary upwards is engaged in promoting the green agenda. Those who do not necessarily agree do not rock the boat.

  8. markl permalink
    January 17, 2016 4:54 pm

    The Socialists have found easy pickings with the “green” crowd and that is the only reason they support them. Nothing more than useful idiots in their eyes. Look into the Marxist dogma and you’ll fine the root of Liberal education. The purpose is to indoctrinate, not educate.

  9. January 17, 2016 6:51 pm

    This same bias is found in all state (aka national) sponsored organisation. In the UK we see it in the state sponsored BBC, quangos, state financed “charities” and public boards and research groups.

    Partly over here it is to provide high incomes to their friends who are out of elected office.

    • markl permalink
      January 17, 2016 10:40 pm

      The Chinese have the money to waste and will take anything to boost industry. Even if it looks to fail the UK will make their citizens pay for it. I’m saddened by the amount of carp the people of the UK are taking to prove we aren’t ready for a renewable energy world yet.

  10. billw1984 permalink
    January 18, 2016 3:22 pm

    The term liberal and to some extent the term conservative are fuzzy and misleading the way they are used in the USA. Likewise, the terms left and right. Europeans still use liberal in its original meaning in which the founding fathers were classical liberals and the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights are classically liberal documents. Modern day libertarians are for the most part classical liberals. I personally try not to use liberal as a pejorative but instead use “progressive” (always with quotes as they are not progressive) or “leftist” or occasionally democrat but usually with progressive in front of it.

    • January 18, 2016 4:49 pm

      Yes, Bill, with one amendment: The terms left and right are equally fuzzy and meaningless, including in Europe and elsewhere. There is no logic to modern radicals like Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s National Socialists sharing the bench with the ancien régime Right of clergy, nobility and royalty.

      The reasons why the world uses this nonsensical classification were the original ever-changing interests of Stalin and the Komintern to distance themselves at different times from their fellow revolutionaries, and the lasting interest of all “progressives” to smear their political adversaries with Nazi associations. If you want to embarrass a “progressive”, ask him to provide a cogent definition of “right”. You will either get a deer in the headlight moment or a pile of Marxist-Leninist manure from those who were trained in the orthodoxy.

  11. BrianJay permalink
    January 19, 2016 5:44 pm

    I forget who it was, (could have been William Briggs) but he analysed the increasing prevalence of Social Science courses in universities, which in this country (UK) corresponded with Brown and Blair deciding that every one should have a degree. A friend of mine wished to pursue a law degree at the Open University and found to her horror that she was required to study Social Science in the first year. Needless to say all the course work was heavily biased towards left field thinking. As an example one study looked at a successful black entrepreneur who opened a farm so that inner city kids could see how food was produced. My friend commented on this favourably only to be told by her supervisor that the man was a raving conservative. My friend failed the first year!

    Social Science gets the Science bit from Marx AKA Scientific Socialism. Marxists recite Marx’s dictum that philosophers interpret the world but his objective was to change it. Thus he discovered the Iron Laws of historical development, which he called a science. So with this Social Science no rigorous analysis is ever required.

    If you strip these kinds of Bozo’s out of universities the majority of the real science tenure would be conservative.

  12. April 22, 2016 6:49 pm

    Reblogged this on gwfenimore.

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