• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • Breaking: Professors Might Have Liberal Bias

    Of course it’s not surprising news at all: there are many more liberals than conservatives in the universities. But this reality has become an inconvenient truth refusing to stay under the rug.  The New York Times reports a finding by University of Virginia social psychology professor Jonathan Haidt: 80% of social psychologists openly admit a liberal preference. Haidt confronted his peers with this disproportion between liberals and conservatives at the Social Psychology conference in San Antonio last month. While any other major disproportions (age, sex, race) in the discipline would raise unanimous outrage, Haidt pointed out to his colleagues that this statistic has hardly engendered a shrug.

    But this liberal domination is not limited to social psychology. Though a 2009 Gallup Poll shows that 40% of Americans identify themselves as Conservatives and only 20% as Liberals, the story in the universities is much different. Across all campuses in America Democrats outnumber Republicans 5:1. In the “soft liberal-arts,” the ratio jumps up to 8:1.

    Though there is an obvious imbalance in higher education, this does not necessarily mean that every professor uses the classroom as a soapbox. That said, Haidt’s research does point to several instances where graduate students in the field of social psychology have been marginalized for their political values. The Heritage Foundation’s president Ed Feulner has also brought attention a wave of conservative students who have suffered discrimination at the hands of a liberal professor. But setting aside these abuses of power, the real danger is the narrowing of viewpoints that might accompany a skewed political representation.

    Haidt’s solution to this problem is to enact “Diversity Initiatives” on behalf of conservatives in higher education. He calls for a minimum 10% conservative membership rate in social psychology.  If only this could deal with the root problem. The concern is not the numbers or percentages, so the solution is not filing a lawsuit or demanding equal representation in the universities.

    Pluralism of viewpoints does not mean that students should be compelled to consider every harebrained idea or theory. As the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) explains, “intellectual diversity might best be described as a crucial component of academic integrity—one in which education means exposing students to a wide range of recognized scholarly viewpoints and equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to evaluate, compare, and choose among those viewpoints.”

    Intellectual diversity cannot simply be an attractive phrase without substance.  It ought to be a reality for all students.  In order to bring this about, ACTA suggests “10 Best Practices” for universities looking to encourage true intellectual diversity.  For example, a university might encourage visiting scholar and guest lectures programs. Changes like these are the steps that can refocus universities and generate an environment that promotes a free exchange of ideas. Maybe the makeup of the university faculty would change in such an atmosphere. Maybe.

    Leslie Grimard is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Breaking: Professors Might Have Liberal Bias

    1. Kevin H, college par says:

      Hard not to believe that as people become more educated and more cultured, they would become more liberal. There are handfuls of studies over past decade that show the blue stats are where the higher educated are located.

      I mean just look at the Palin/Beck viewpoints on higher education – they are anti-intellectuals. They would have hated our founding fathers if they met them in person, since the founding fathers were some of the smartest people in the country.

      • RURIGHT says:

        Typical elitist attitude! If you think Social Liberalism is intellectual then you are by far a moron who claims to be a genius!! Freedom and Liberty are Right Wing and Government dependence is Left Wing. The only freedoms the Left espouses is homosexual freedom, the murder of the unborn, drugs, pornography and every vice known. The real intellectuals are those who can take care of themselves and get ahead on their own initiative, not on a handout by someone else i.e. The Government"! Left wing governments have murdered directly and indirectly up to 750 million people in the last century! This is real intellectual isn’t it?

    2. dirtydog1776 says:

      Most professors are liberals because they never had to work a day in their life, love sucking on the public tit and would be incapable of making a go of it in the private sectors. They hate free enterprise.

    3. Christopher Grimard, says:

      It has been apparent that even on primarily conservative campuses, the liberal educational system has ingrained its political, and in some cases, its moral view points, in our educational system. The indisputable, point that is pointed out very well, is that our education is bias. The concept of a well-rounded education has been eliminated on all levels. An education is in theory supposed to be designed to give students all the facts and view points in an effort to let them make their own decisions. The modern education system has become a political tool to propagandize the youth of our nation by limiting their knowledge base. Education's purpose is to open and expand a persons mind to their world, not to close them off and create a bias towards it.

    4. Pingback: Tweets that mention The Foundry: Conservative Policy News. -- Topsy.com

    5. Steven A. Sylwester, says:

      And then there is the University of Oregon. Consider:

      Explaining such a thing is helped by knowing this:


      "On a state level, it is not clear whether the least religious state resides in the New England area or the Western United States, as the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) ranked Vermont as the state with the highest percentage of residents claiming no religion at 34%, but a 2009 Gallup poll ranked Oregon as the state with the highest percentage of residents identifying with "No religion, Atheist, or Agnostic", at 24.6%."


      Also, consider:

      And then there is this about Oregon:

      Exit polls from 2004 contain a basic question about the ideology (conservative/liberal/moderate) of each voter. We can apply a Likert scale to these responses, assigning 10 points to every liberal, 5 to every moderate, and 0 to every conservative. We will call this result a Liberalness Score. The average voter in Oregon has a Liberalness Score of 4.65, which ties it with Minnesota as the 13th most liberal state in the country. (Massachusetts is the most liberal state at 5.65, and Utah the most conservative at 3.30. Note that only a handful of states have a rating above 5 — that is, have more self-identified liberals than conservatives.)

      But here's where it gets interesting. The average Kerry voter nationwide had a Liberalness Score of 6.20 — just slightly left of center. However, in Oregon, the average Kerry voter was a 7.17. This, as it happens, is the highest score in the country; the Kerry voters in Oregon were more liberal than the ones in Vermont (7.11) or even the District of Columbia (6.97).

      Meanwhile, the average Bush voter nationwide had a Liberalness Score of 2.58 — pretty darn conservative. But in Oregon, the average Bush voter was a 2.01 — very conservative. And guess what? That is the lowest Liberalness Score for Bush voters anywhere in the country. The Bush voters in Oregon were as conservative as the ones in Tennessee (2.02) or Utah (2.15).

      So the liberals in Oregon are as liberal as any in the country, whereas the conservatives are as conservative as any in the country. …

      * * *

      Of course, the problem spreads into other things. Consider:

      * * *

      A state public research university should serve the interests of its state's citizens according to its state's demographics, including its state's political makeup demographics. The University of Oregon does not accomplish that for the citizens of Oregon.

      I personally think the "liberal professor" bias is a "belief in God" issue to a much larger extent than what people will ever admit to, because discrimination against "religion" is not acceptable. The University of Oregon anti-discrimination policy states:
      "The University of Oregon affirms and actively promotes the right of all individuals to equal opportunity in education and employment at this institution without regard to race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, marital status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or any other extraneous consideration not directly and substantively related to effective performance. …"

      Gallup recently reported: "Four in 10 Americans, slightly fewer today than in years past, believe God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago. Thirty-eight percent believe God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms, while 16%, up slightly from years past, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God's involvement."

      It would not surprise me if more than 90% of the University of Oregon professors are in the 16% category, that is: believe humans developed over millions of years, without God's involvement. Of course, every professor is entitled to his/her faith beliefs, but every student should have that same entitlement, too. A university setting should be a place where students can express their viewpoints openly without having to fear unfair criticisms.

      I am the son of a liberal-minded university professor, so I do not stand in awe of the person with advanced degrees. I could go on at great length, but I will suffice with this: never mistake what is doctrinaire and dogmatic for what is mysterious and wondrous; the legitimate answer to many questions is a long pondered silence followed by a whispered, "I do not know." Simply, if you are not gravitating toward the Truth found in Psalm 46, you are moving in the wrong direction.


      Steven A. Sylwester

    6. Tommy says:

      This article confirms what I already believed: most college professors are not very smart; rather, they are controversial.

      Regrettably, many of what many may call "intellectuals" who are working in the public sector would in a heartbeat substitute personal liberty for what they would call their "ideal world." This is a dangerous road to take, and it can hardly be considered a characteristic of someone of intelligence.

    7. Pingback: Conservatives in Academia « Commentary Magazine

    8. iggyb, South Korea says:

      Lack of diversity in academia produces a hard grind for students outside their socio-political mindset. Graduate study is already a grind for everyone. When prof after prof after prof you study under shares the same broad world-view and one opposite your own, the grind becomes prohibitive.

      And the lack of diversity perpetuates itself.

      Of course, I've also heard a prof casually tell me they (the profs in the humanities) would never OK the hiring of a conservative…

    9. Jamie says:

      Tommy wins this thread:

      "This article confirms what I already believed." Welcome to the Internet, my friend. And beneath an article complaining that people don't get exposed to other peoples' viewpoints no less…this was just beautiful. Thank you.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.