March 2, 2016

Lawprof scholarship examining whether lawprof scholarship is politically biased indicates that lawprof scholarship by liberals slants leftward...

... but lawprof scholarship by conservatives does not slant rightward.
Professors who are Democrats... have an average article ideology of -2.67 with a 90% confidence interval of -3.13 to -2.21. Using a t-test, we can say that this is statistically different from zero (p-value < 0.00). Professors who are Republicans... have an average article ideology of 0.17 with a 90% confidence interval of -0.72 to 1.10. For these professors, we cannot reject the possibility that the true net ideology of their articles is zero (p-value = 0.72). In other words, our data suggest that Democrats in our sample do not write articles that are on balance neutral, but that Republicans in our sample may write articles that are on balance neutral. ...
Now, one might wonder whether the study itself is biased, and somehow sees what is conservative as neutral, but let's assume something real has been observed and ask why:
The most plausible explanation is that if the dominant ethos in the top law schools is liberal or left-wing, then Republicans are likely to conceal their ideological views in their writings. Republican professors might fear that scholarship that appears conservative may be rejected by leftleaning law review editors, and disparaged or ignored by their colleagues, which will damage their chances for promotions, research money, and lateral appointments. This would explain why even [those who have not made contributions to either political party] tilt left. Republicans could suppress their ideological views by avoiding controversial topics, taking refuge in fields that have little ideological valence, focusing on empirical or analytical work, or simply writing things that they don’t believe.
That sounds likely, except to the extent that it assumes that political beliefs are deep and fundamental to a person's being. I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group and personal success, in which case, you'd take on the politics prevalent within your environment. It's like religion, isn't it? How many of the exemplars of the faith really believe it? Most are responding, emotionally, to what they need — acceptance, love, money — and fending off what they fear — rejection, contempt, poverty. 

64 comments:

Birkel said...

Althouse is able to tell why people are religious.

Unlike those icky North Carolina prison officials.

Gahrie said...

I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group and personal success

Example 10,000,897,000 that men and women are different.

Birkel said...

Althouse,

As somebody who fits the Leftist, collectivist ethos very well, you cannot imagine what minorities experience. Conservative Law Professors Matter.

It's a Conservative thing, you wouldn't understand.

Hahaha...

Can I claim Althouse has false consciousness?
This game is fun, no wonder Leftists play it.

traditionalguy said...

Statistics are used by scientists and liars. The social sciences are measuring smoke. There is no there there. But it sure is fun.

Birkel said...

"I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group and personal success."

(And that personal success depends on hiding unpopular political views.)

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, Althouse.

Rick said...

There's another likely answer, the analytical weakness of left/right dichotomy. In reality there's a continuum but the range of representation is unlikely to be representative due to the underlying institutional bias. So while there are some Republican lawprofs the far right is likely underrepresented even among this already underrepresented group while the far left is likely similarly overrepresented. It would be interesting to see this analysis with the contributors broken into smaller political cohorts, this would give us an idea of how much of the result is due to this issue versus the one the authors identify.

But that would be difficult in part because even the far left perceives itself as moderate. So you'd have to apply external (and therefore subjective) ratings in order to produce anything useful.

mccullough said...

Univerisities and law schools are hotbeds of conformity.

Birkel said...

Smaller cohorts? You separate the collectivist Leftists into their fascist, communist, racist, Soviet, totalitarian and Democrat subsets?

That Venn Diagram would have to be hidden from the seizure-prone.

Bob Ellison said...

What I don't get is why lawyers think they are smart and good at reasoning.

It's a Professor Kingsfield thing, maybe. Lawyers tend to think they are smarter and more logical and better writers than the restivus.

They're not. The leftist bias is right there. You must be stupid or a self-dealing jerk to go that way. Oh, that's a lawyer?

Gabriel said...

That political views are an identity is a sign of how bad things have become. It's a sign that government is too powerful.

Bob Boyd said...

Perhaps the conservatives are religious in the traditional sense, being a member of a church, for example. As such their religious life is separate from their work life.
Liberals, on the other hand, tend satisfy their religious urges with politics.
Members of both groups may evangelize to one degree or another, but for liberals it tends to come out more at work

n.n said...

Cynicism, and its mature sibling, nihilism, seem to accompany most people as they lose their youthful innocence. A tragedy of living in a world with variable or selective principles and misoriented or disoriented faith.

Bob Ellison said...

Conservatives in the aggregate do not shout about their philosophies. They give to charity, put out fires, help the lady across the street, and shut up about it.

Liberals in the aggregate shout about their philosophies. They can't stop talking about it. It's their reason for being. It's their religion. They don't give to charities, don't put out fires, and don't help the lady across the street. They protest against people who put out fires and help ladies.

rhhardin said...

Richard Epstein is the only lawprof worth listening to on the law, at least if you're not a lawprof.

No doubt lawprofs have their own cliques and stuff they like to natter about.

Nice recent Epstein lecture on Constitutional Law and the importance of common law to it A Common Lawyer Looks at Supreme Court Constitutional Law youtube.

It gives a better alternative to originalist. Go back to where the originalists got their stuff from, namely common law, and work from that.

tim maguire said...

Liberals, who tend to be surrounded by liberals and are free to express their liberal views, are generally blind to liberal bias. It's just part of the background noise of their lives. Conservatives, because they are bombarded with liberal ideas throughout their daily life, are very aware of political bias.

The general neutrality of conservative scholarship is more likely to be the result of a greater awareness of bias then a mere attempt to hide their conservatism.

mccullough said...

Epstein is as bad as the rest of them. Another theorist with no practical experience who has led a sheltered life.

n.n said...

Bob Boyd:

religious urges... evangelize... liberals it tends to come out more at work

school, government, culture, courts, streets, television, etc. The "separation of church and state" is an inside joke whose significance is lost on people who interpret it with a traditional bias.

Larry J said...

In effect, academia is intellectually inbred. They're liberals who will stunt the career opportunities of any academic who leans conservative. That means they live in a monoculture where no one is there to challenge their ideas. When they are challenged, their most likely response is an invective such as "racist" or "bigot".

Basil said...

It's something more basic at work here. Service to the party subsumes all other values. The Marxist, leftist, progressive (whatever the term is today, hard to keep up) serves only the party and actively excludes all who do not support and defend the party.

Looking forward to a similar study on bias in media hiring. Journalism died when it was taken over by the party apparatus.

Michael K said...

"Liberals, on the other hand, tend satisfy their religious urges with politics."

I agree.

An internet friend of mine, a biology professor, was denied tenure at a college because of his political beliefs, which he did not advertise. He is doing well at another university but was very traumatized by the experience.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Maybe the law school prof "conservatives" are actually moderates. Isn't that the simplest explanation for the data points?

Jim said...

"I mean, this is what it's come to, right? Where smirking Ph.Ds who have never spent a day of their adult lives outside of the governmental or academic womb, where earringed, pony-tailed apparatchiks who have never managed a dime, who have never counseled a retired couple trying to live on their savings, now unilaterally and without limitation make political decisions that determine the fate of that retired couple. Not just in Sweden, but everywhere in the world. Yeah, I shouldn't mention the whole earring and pony-tail thing, but you know what? It's an intentional statement of identity, an identity that I recognize from my decade as a political science professor, an identity that not only elevates elegant theory over practical experience, but more than that, dismisses practical experience as inherently inferior to the tenets of an academic faith." From an article by Ben Hunt, Epsilon Theory.He is speaking of economic theory, but it fits well with the idea that a certain class has an obligation to tutor the rest of us stupid people. Not just in economics, but in what we eat, drive, think, and feel.http://www.salientpartners.com/epsilontheory/

Birkel said...

Left Bank of the Charles:

Depends on the frame of reference. At law schools anybody who does not believe in socialism is on the "far right" by definition.

Alexander said...

I will go an inform Christians throughout the ME that given that the goal is security and group acceptance, they're doing it wrong.

Likewise, there is absolutely no need for Europe to tolerate Islami, because those migrants obviously just want to be accepted into their newfound European homes, and as such shrugging off the mantle of Islam is something they will readily do as long as we tell them that Europe stands for secular modernism and they need to get with the program if they want to be accepted as 'one of us'.

Or: "Fitting in" is not the primary reason an individual professes a given faith.

Original Mike said...

Look at the graph at the link. Democrats aren't just "left", they're falling of the page left.

Paddy O said...

"I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group"

I'm curious how much publishing law review articles is important for career advancement and peer acceptance? I don't know the law field. In other fields, publishing is both a CV issue and a way of networking with peers, working on projects, presenting at conferences. But law is, if I'm not mistaken, the only field where students are the ones in charge of the journals. Are professors vying for acceptance by students? I guess since law is one of the few (only?) academic fields where professors only have a year or so of more formal education than the student editors it isn't quite as big of a gap. But there's still the reality that professors have studies a lot more and are in a different social/professional strata than students.

Religion in terms of systems theories are the same as any other category of meaning. We vie for value among our recognized peers within a system and perform in the ways we think bring that esteem. The exemplars of any given field, of course, are often such because they risked alienation and disapproval in pushing towards new vistas of achievement. So it's really the bottom of Kandinsky's triangle folks that are responding more socially and emotionally to fields they don't really internally understand.

rhhardin said...

You could summarize Epstein as saying everything comes from organizing so as to ensure gains from trade.

He explicates everything using that.

On the other hand, organizing for gains from trade is what lifted mankind out of poverty, so it's pretty important.

Chuck said...

It is not exactly on point, but with the recent passing of Justice Scalia, it is a real pleasure to go back and read his dissent (very much in the manner of his landmark Lawrence and Obergefell dissents) in Romer v Evans, 517 US 620 (1986):

"When the Court takes sides in the culture wars, it tends to be with the knights rather than the villains--and more specifically with the Templars, reflecting the views and values of the lawyer class from which the Court's Members are drawn. How that class feels about homosexuality will be evident to anyone who wishes to interview job applicants at virtually any of the Nation's law schools. The interviewer may refuse to offer a job because the applicant is a Republican; because he is an adulterer; because he went to the wrong prep school or belongs to the wrong country club; because he eats snails; because he is a womanizer; because she wears real animal fur; or even because he hates the Chicago Cubs. But if the interviewer should wish not to be an associate or partner of an applicant because he disapproves of the applicant's homosexuality, then he will have violated the pledge which the Association of American Law Schools requires all its member schools to exact from job interviewers: "assurance of the employer's willingness" to hire homosexuals. Bylaws of the Association of American Law Schools, Inc. §6-4(b); Executive Committee Regulations of the Association of American Law Schools §6.19, in 1995 Handbook, Association of American Law Schools. This law school view of what "prejudices" must be stamped out may be contrasted with the more plebeian attitudes that apparently still prevail in the United States Congress, which has been unresponsive to repeated attempts to extend to homosexuals the protections of federal civil rights laws, see, e.g., Employment Non Discrimination Act of 1994, S. 2238, 103d Cong., 2d Sess. (1994); Civil Rights Amendments of 1975, H. R. 5452, 94th Cong., 1st Sess. (1975), and which took the pains to exclude them specifically from the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, see 42 U.S.C. § 12211(a) (1988 ed., Supp. V).

Carol said...

We had one outspoken conservative prof at our law school, whom Ann has featured here at least once. I was not in school when he taught Property so never got to know him as a student but met him later. He did have a very prickly personality, paranoid, suspicious, hard to talk to. I don't know if he started out or became this way, because I think faculty loathed him.

But as Kaus recently noted re Trump, it may very take someone like this to fight the conformist peer pressure. Nice guys fit in.

Dan Hossley said...

"I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group and personal success, in which case, you'd take on the politics prevalent within your environment."

Big assumption. Maslow seems to disagree. I guess the third rank need for "love and acceptance" could drive someone adopt conformist views, but what kind of sad sack is looking for love and acceptance at work? And you would have to skip over the first rank need, "food & shelter" and the second "safety" to get there. More likely they conform to keep their job.

As another said on this post, Universities are a hotbed of conformity.

Bob Ellison said...

People conform.

What kind of a person writes comments on a blog? You're already a sliver of humanity.

What kind of a person advocates a politically incorrect position? A sliver of a sliver.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tim in vermont said...

Left Bank of the Charles,

"Reject first, ask rhetorical questions later!"

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The most plausible explanation is ...

I disagree. The central tenant of conservative jurisprudence is that the Constitution says what the Constitution says. The central tenant of liberal jurisprudence is that the Constitution says whatever you can make the Constitution say.

Why would we expect a different approach to research?

Bay Area Guy said...

Snow is white, water is wet, grass is green, law professors are liberal.* What else is new?

* with the exception of our independent, fair-minded Hostess, of course.

Qwinn said...

"The Marxist, leftist, progressive (whatever the term is today, hard to keep up) serves only the party and actively excludes all who do not support and defend the party."

Exactly. And the practice of firing and hiring based on political ideology is known as McCarthyism, a practice that in the proclaimed view of Leftists and high school teachers across the country is a far more heinous practice than anything Stalin ever did.

For the last 70 years, they have used their perverted ahistorical version of the "red scare" to cow and shame non-Leftists into never ever taking ideology into account, while simultaneously themselves firing and hiring based *only* on political ideology. And thus the Long March Through The Institutions succeeded. A clearer example of Fen's Law there has never been. Leftists never objected to the principles of what they call "McCarthyism", they simply reserve it to themselves.

The problem is that there is no way (short of an across-the-board ideological purge) to defeat this strategy now that the institutions have been captured. Once an institution has been captured, and those in charge continue to fire and hire based only on ideology, using the same strategy against them is ineffective.

Someday we will have to employ that across-the-board societal ideological purge of the institutions, or be violently purged ourselves. I see no other resolution or outcome.

Ann Althouse said...

"As somebody who fits the Leftist, collectivist ethos very well, you cannot imagine what minorities experience."

Within my milieu, I am viewed as a conservative. I am not seen as fitting in with the left. I'm seen as conservative because of my willingness to give conservatism air, to engage with respect. It was supposed to be toxic.

David said...

My definition of a conservative has always included a respect for facts and a willingness to follow where they lead, coupled with a core principle of integrity and honesty in analysis. Indeed a hard standard to achieve, even if you are trying. This also assumes that while facts may be disputed and may look different from different perspectives, there is nevertheless a core truth that can be discerned and must be accounted for. Misperception of fact leads to more daily error than difference in philosophy, and being led by philosophy and belief is a major factor in misperception of fact.

And then there are the lies, which are depressingly common today.

Could the differences between left and right in this survey be influenced by basic differences in how inquiry works and confusion between facts and beliefs? (This confusion is not confined to the left,)

Or maybe the conservative scholars are, as a group, simply of better quality. Could it be that only the best of them get hired, while the standard for lefties is lax? For lefty scholars the demand and supply are both higher. This can lead to a reduction in quality. The supply of idiot lefty academics sometimes seems endless, but it's probably only because there are so many slots to fill that a certain percentage of idiots is inevitable.

Levi Starks said...

This seems so obvious to me.
Conservatives believe in the constitution, and the rule of law.
Liberals on the other hand are quite simply "true believers" to whom the constitution, and the rule of law are simply a means to an end. Tools to be used, or misused as needed to fix the problem of the day.

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...

Within my milieu...I'm seen as conservative because of my willingness to give conservatism air, to engage with respect.


You betcha.

hstad said...

I could never understand how or why we allow Academics to teach our children? After all, aren't most people Academics because they can't make a living in the real world? Especially lawyers!

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said... It was supposed to be toxic.

Maybe you're already too far gone--too poisoned to recognize your own sickness now, Professor!

Since everyone knows Diversity is Our Strength do academic lawyers/law professors bemoan the weakness of their unDiverse profession? They should, right, since Diversity is so important and since they actually believe Diversity is so important.

Job said...

Yet, oddly, I exist in an environment where the vast majority of my family and coworkers strongly disagree with me about both religion and politics.

Why can't I figure out that I should eschew my beliefs -- that I don't really have -- to be accepted ?

Jonathan Graehl said...

The *people* are biased in the direction of their actual beliefs.

Their *scholarship* is biased (to the limit of comfortable almost-integrity) in the direction they think will help their career. This may translate to right-biased people putting forward only correct (or at least defensible) arguments for their side, but also including some sloppy nods or defaults in analysis of ambiguous issues - in other words, wherever they can't come up with a clear refutation of the leftist thing, they advance it (on paper).

It's true that social comfort and escalating virtue signaling requirements can lead to excesses where: 1. people's true beliefs don't hold up under the pressure - they drink the koolaid 2. even the left-most are feeling pressured into professing more extreme views than they're really comfortable with (to maintain their positional advantage - the spotlight, the fame, that's so attractive we had a few academics showing off how their thoughts immediately went to what we did to *deserve* 9/11 - something which likely was *not* comfortable or natural for them, but rather a desperate clinging to their ideological pre-commitments)

YoungHegelian said...

I'm seen as conservative because of my willingness to give conservatism air, to engage with respect. It was supposed to be toxic.

Yep.

I have friends where even to bring up questions of fact or to ask them to examine their basic premises is seen as "right-wing", even if I question their premises from a "left-wing" perspective. I know my Marxists & post-Marxists well enough that I can talk the talk, but it all gets poisoned by their knowledge that I am, to quote Todd Browning's famous scene in Freaks not "One of us, one of us!". I believe it was Robert Conquest** who said that "The Left's greatest victory was to be able to turn questions of fact into questions of intention".


** unable to find quotation source, so I'm pulling that one out of my ass.

Birkel said...

That Althouse is viewed conservative is all one needs to know.
Everything I wrote above was correct.

Thanks for playing the moderate, but fully, Leftist, Althouse.

Birkel said...

"...to give conservatism air..."

Because other Leftists would choke the nearest conservative, if they could, LMAO.

Birkel said...

Because: tolerance!!

Also because: shut up!!

And because: that's not funny!!

n.n said...

American conservatism is essentially classical liberalism tempered by Christian morality. It is a reconciliation of individual dignity and intrinsic value with natural imperatives that favors each in equal proportions. It is a philosophy that moderates between left (i.e. classes, totalitarian) and right-wing (i.e. individual, dynamic) schools of thought.

Qwinn said...

Try to imagine an academic setting where it is leftism that is ever denied "air".

Try to imagine an academic setting where treating leftists with respect is considered "toxic."

In the Left's fevered imaginations, that setting existed in the 50's during the "red scare". It never did, of course. The only "red scare" that matches the ideological totalitarianism that the Left pretended it was a victim of is the one where conservatives are considered to be the red team. Actually, it's far worse.

Steve said...

It is much like religion, but conservatives are the Jews of reformation Europe. No way for them to join the dominant group so they keep a low profile and hope that the Inquisition doesn't surprise them.

Unattorney said...

Law professors make huge amounts of money for teaching the same thIng year after year. Most never practiced law, know nothing of science, and get their opinions from the NY Times. After twenty years of experience my dog could teach torts or evidence.

Johnathan Birks said...

You could substitute "journalist" for "law professor" without having to change another word. And unlike the legal profession, which is to some extent self-correcting, the media will never undertake a truly objective self-analysis.

Peter said...

One of the arguments in "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" by Jonathan Haidt is that liberals (in the American sense) draw their morality primarily from just one or two of the six moral themes he identifies in this book, whereas conservatives draw more evenly from all six.

I left the book unconvinced, but, if there is something there that might explain why those who lean liberal-left tend to be more overtly political, and less open to consider arguments from those who don't share their political worldview.

tim in vermont said...

Kate at SmallDeadAnimals has a saying: "What's the opposite of diversity? University!"

Larry J said...

Ann Althouse said...

Within my milieu, I am viewed as a conservative. I am not seen as fitting in with the left. I'm seen as conservative because of my willingness to give conservatism air, to engage with respect. It was supposed to be toxic.


Which just confirms my statement that academia is intellectually inbred. By excluding conservatives from academia, the institutions lack hybrid vigor. They're weak and will continue to get weaker in a manner to the inbred European royalty of the 19th century.

tim in vermont said...

. I would assume that people care most fundamentally about acceptance in the group and personal success,

Which goes back to my definition of a conservative as somebody insufficiently sensitive to social pressure. People really are different, Mark Twain said he only needed to look inside himself to create any kind of character, but the technique has its limits.

Birkel said...

And my definition of a Liberal collectivist is somebody who is insufficiently sensitive to evidence, logic and experience. People really are different. Some only look inside themselves instead of perceiving the world as it is. This has its limits.

mtrobertslaw said...

The interesting question is whether Ann was viewed as a conservative by her law school peers before she was granted tenure.

Ann Althouse said...


I was viewed as conservative from the beginning because I took federalism seriously. In my first article, I committed the sin of saying something nice about Pennhurst, a case you were supposed to deplore.

Birkel said...

So you were insufficiently deferential to the "correct" outcome and said something about "the law and the reasoning" and that made you conservative?

Do I have the measure of it?

Terry said...

Althouse wrote:"I was viewed as conservative from the beginning because I took federalism seriously."
I salute you!
The only way this country can be governed well is if federalism is taken seriously.
We forget that the federal government is nowhere. It has no natural constituency. The states can dissolve the federal government with a constitutional convention. There is no constitutional method for the federal government to unmake a state.

tim in vermont said...

I say we make Ann an "honorary conservative."

Rich Rostrom said...

I would suggest that the effect comes more at the margins. There are very few strongly conservative law profs, but many strongly liberal/"progressive" law profs. Moderates on either side would tend to produce apolitical scholarship. But there are proportionately more non-moderates on the left, so the balance of left scholarship would be more politically charged.

Also, in that context, ISTM liberals would be more likely to reflect their political views in their scholarship. It is not so much self-censorship by conservatives, as a failure by some liberals to recognize the partisan political content in their work; everyone they know agrees with it.