July 2, 2016

"There Are Conservative Professors. Just Not in These States."

That's the headline to a NYT op-ed by Samuel J. Abrams, a politics professor at Sarah Lawrence College, where colleagues joked that he must have been a diversity hire because he "didn’t express uniformly left-wing political views."

The op-ed is mostly about the strong leftward tilt of academia, and how very strongly left the tilt is in New England:
In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1.
28 to 1! Then there's the west — the “left coast” — where it was 3 to 1 and now is  6 to 1. Elsewhere, it was 1 to 1 and now it's 3 to 1.

But if you get specific enough — select Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming — you get  1.5 to 1, an actual uptick for conservatism, from 2 to 1 in 1989.

34 comments:

dreams said...

I'm not worried about those liberal professors because eventually they're going to be Muslim professors.

Owen said...

Well, that's a relief. Because those flyover states with a favorable trend are simply teeming with professors. I imagine they collectively represent 5% or even 6% of the total relevant workforce in higher education, and they are working at schools that are by far the most influential and visible to the wider public. I mean, think of all the times the New York Times is quoting the animal husbandry expert at Wyoming State, or the hydrologist at Denver U, and the fracking expert in Idaho.

Sorry, I forgot the sarc font there.

Sebastian said...

Makes sense. NE and West Coast colleges care about diversity. Conservatives are not diverse. Therefore, NE and WC tilt against conservatives.

Francisco D said...

I was in graduate school when Reagan was elected. After voting for McGovern and Carter, I had an awakening and voted for RR. I am pretty sure that none of the 33 professors in my (Psychology) department voted for him. However, there was a level of civility between liberal professors and conservative students that does not seem to exist today.

My graduate advisor was probably the most leftist of the group. He later worked with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn to get Obama elected to the state senate and beyond. He was always respectful to me and to a later student of his who was avowedly conservative.

I strongly suspect that we never would have had our dissertation proposals passed by the SJWs who predominate at that school.

n.n said...

Americans have ceded ground.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

As communicated by the popular media, this whole left or right thing is a giant distraction, IMHO. Such formalism might well have its scholarly uses, say, in political science or history, but the popular use of it is indiscriminate, promiscuous. That keeps things simple, of course, so ordinary people can follow along, and more than that, I think, is the media wants well-defined teams for competition for its spectators.

I've been watching some soccer, lately, and they generally do a pretty good job of dressing the teams so you can tell readily who's who. But the goaltenders are colored differently, altogether.

Funny thing is, there's really no crucial reason why one goaltender should be dressed differently from the other.

But that's the way we like things, apparently.

JPS said...

Meh. This tilt is overstated. The professors in my college, as our humor magazine put it, ran the gamut of political views, from proto-Marxist to neo-Marxist to classical Marxist.

As for me, of ~40 professors in a hard-science department, I was one of two who could be considered to the right of center. The other had emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1985.

Bruce Hayden said...

Not so sure these days about CO. My kid is in grad school in Boulder, and we have long called it the PRB (People's Republic of Boulder). And the school has to be near the top, if not the actual top, in Anthrogenic Global Cooling/Warming/Climate Change/Etc. research, with all the federal agencies and labs around there (NOAA, NCAR, NIST, NREL (primary NREL facility is 30 miles south in Golden though), and multiple departments have strong environmental sciences, etc majors, including several of the engineering departments. Maybe not surprisingly, with all the money thrown in, and NREL 10 minutes away, even (Colo School of) Mines has joined the Eco-warrior bandwagon. And never forget that CU had Ward Chamberin, who at one time was chair of his dept, despite only having a Masters degree (obtained, apparently, using bogus research). And Paul Campos at the Law School. Fort Collins (home of CSU) has shifted hard to the left since I left there a bit over 20 years ago, a long way from the school's Land Grant Ag School roots. It got lumped in with Boulder and the ski communities west of Denver to give the Dems an ultra safe Congressional seat. University of Denver still seems somewhat sane, except for the law school, that seemingly hasn't hired any straight white males for quite awhile (but was perfectly happy hiring the lesbian partner of another faculty member, despite no research or clerkng). Colorado College in C.Springs has always been reliably liberal, since at least the Vietnam protest era. 20-30 years ago, I remember kids living in a shanty town on campus to protest Aparthed. Administration used to be moderate, but last couple Presidents have been pretty wacko. But, yes, there are more conservative universities in Greeley, Grand Junction, maybe Durango, etc. Still, the colleges and universities have shifted quite a bit to the left since I was a high schooler there almost 50 years ago, when only CU and CC were that liberal, and both of them have moved even further left since then.

Owen said...

Bruce Hayden: thanks for the details on Colorado and from limited experience there (visits and work) I have to agree. The Global Warming community in/around Boulder is --dare I say this?-- a hotspot of Prog "science."

exhelodrvr1 said...

And he calls the shift from 2:1 to 4:1 "smaller growth". That's really scary.

tim in vermont said...

I think we can all agree that the sarcasm font is comic sans MS.

Darleen said...

There won't be any significant change to academia because this is NOT a case of a broken system. The is Mission Accomplished.

Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

It should also be noted that the distribution of conservatives is not even across departments. They tend to be concentrated in the STEM fields. The political ideology of a STEM professor will have very little influence on what they teach. On the other hand, a liberal professor in psychology, sociology, or constitutional law can easily let their ideology influence what they teach.

Michael K said...

The political ideology of a STEM professor will have very little influence on what they teach.

Not to mention that the search for truth in Science tends to accompany the search for truth everywhere.

Fake Science accumulates in fields where there are no controls. Nothing is provable by experiment.

wbwittmeyer said...

It should not be a surprise that colleges and universities are "left wing". It is pure self interest. Higher education is dependent directly and indirectly on taxpayer funds. To get those funds the institutions have to support an intrusive government that will extract the funds through direct taxes and through subsidized loans for tuition and living expenses. There may have at one time been a public good worth the cost of subsidizing education, but that time has long passed. We now have a vast class of credentialed but not educated rent collectors.

levin said...


Not a surprise. The idiocy of micro-aggressions and safe-spaces and the unwillingness of academia to call this stuff out for exactly what it is came from somewhere, specifically the ideological bubble students and faculty live in.
I certainly don't think it comes from the water they drink.

Luke Blanshard said...


But if you get specific enough — select Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming — you get 1.5 to 1, an actual uptick for conservatism, from 2 to 1 in 1989.


No, there's no uptick anywhere. The 2 to 1 figure was the national average. You yourself quoted a 1 to 1 figure for the non-coastal regions in 1989, and I'm sure that if you got specific enough to these 5 states then it would have been less than 1 liberal for every conservative then.

Ann Althouse said...

@Lukw I'm paraphrasing this part of the article: "Here, between 1989 and 2014, the liberal to conservative professor ratio dropped to 1.5 to 1, from 2 to 1." Here referred to those 4 states.

Mark Nielsen said...


I'm an academic in Idaho. While my campus is blessedly nonpolitical in most things (so you don't always know the leanings of your colleagues), it's probably still more out-of-balance than 1.5-to-1. One thing is certain: the only vocal political voices on campus are from the left. Conservative conversation is always muted.

Paul Zrimsek said...

an actual uptick for conservatism

Stands to reason. The Mountain West schools select their professors from a pool of applicants who didn't land jobs at the elite schools. If the elites are practicing ideological discrimination then the westerners are getting a conservative-enriched feedstock.

exhelodrvr1 said...

"The political ideology of a STEM professor will have very little influence on what they teach"

Absolutely! Because, for example, as we've seen with Climate Change, the associated politics have had no impact/influence on the science, and on how that science is presented in an educational environment.

JPS said...

Ignorance is Bliss:

"The political ideology of a STEM professor will have very little influence on what they teach."

This is absolutely true as far as it goes, at least (see exhelodrvr1) in fields not closely tied to influencing public policy debates. However, the culture of many STEM departments (I can speak only for my particular hard science) is dominated by the left, for any number of reasons I don't fully understand.

I would speculate that these include: A tendency for those on the left, more than the right, to reject that grubby money-driven science that industry funds, focused mainly on the bottom line, and seek out academia; the natural tendency in fields funded principally by the federal government to think that more federal funding is almost always a good thing, and to reject the view that the government should (hat tip to PJ O'Rourke) guard the coasts and let UPS deliver the mail; and the tendency of very smart, creative people to believe that this would be a better society if we would just give very smart, creative people, who just happen to include them, much more power and control over society.

Then there's the de facto mandatory toeing of the line on race-based affirmative action. You're either fully on board or you are beyond the pale. As for me, every time I have to bean-count for a particular federal agency, explaining as they require what I've done to extend opportunities to women and under-represented minorities, my incipient Tourette's syndrome tempts me to quote James Watt: "We have a black, a woman, two Jews and a cripple. And we have talent!"

wildswan said...

What I notice on the internet is the intense widespread interest in the literature I was taught even as these texts cease to be taught in academia. Take Beowulf. Online you can see that thousands of people are watching Youtubes about Anglo-Saxon times, about the Anglo-Saxon language, and about Beowulf itself. There are re-enactors, there are people making harps and swords. Books by Tolkien on Beowulf are selling steadily. But in academia the English departments are pinching out the study of Old English as part of an education in English literature.

So, just as in the case of the EU and Britain, an elite with a certain set of assumptions moves away from the people's interests as it rises in power. There is an exit from teaching the humanities in the universities (globalism) AND ALSO an exit from humanities AS TAUGHT IN THE UNIVERSITIES - Hexit, as it were - both going on.

So that a social institution that could capture the existing interest in the humanities would thrive as an educational venture. But it couldn't be in New England apparently because that has got a parasite at the root which is destroying the stately traditions of the area as Dutch elm disease took down the elm trees.

RonF said...

"NE and West Coast colleges care about diversity."

IF they cared about diversity, then there would be a 1:1 ratio of conservatives to liberals on their campuses. But since they are only interested in superficial diversity - race is only skin deep, after all - and not at all in intellectual diversity (intellectualism was, I thought, the point at a university) then it's clear they are not really interested in diversity at all. They just want to build a chorus all singing from the same page.

ndspinelli said...

I traveled across the West to the Midwest in late May. The only places I saw Trump yard signs were in rural Cali, Nevada, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. But, here's a telling sign, as it were. I still see many Bernie signs on the eastside of Madison and a paucity of Hillary signs.

Owen said...

JPS @2:26: "...the tendency of very smart, creative people to believe that this would be a better society if we would just give very smart, creative people, who just happen to include them..." Yes. This tendency to self-congratulate is universal. If STEM professors are "less Progressive" it is probably because their respect for objective truth and falsifiable hypotheses does not need to extend beyond the classroom, and their apparent mastery of the world within their technocratic discipline encourages them to think they can do the same in wider circles of policy and politics. Certainly that was true in my experience in an R&D driven business: the tech geeks were often very Prog.

Owen said...

Sorry. My preceding comment is not as clear as I hoped. My idea about STEM professors is that they may be relatively conservative in their own fields and classrooms. But outside, not necessarily.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Conservatives by definition hate new knowledge. Why on earth would we expect them to be equally represented in academia - the very institution dedicated to the pursuit of new knowledge?

AesopFan said...

Blogger Rhythm and Balls said...
Conservatives by definition hate new knowledge.

***
Wow - you learn something new everyday!
I hadn't realized that was the reason I (as a Conservative) have a 6000 volume library, a Master's Degree in Political Science, and taught computer programming in college.
Must just all be old knowledge.

Rhythm and Balls said...

Sounds like you have an interesting defense AesopFan for why it is that the right wing in America stands against newer and more rational, empirically defensible positions on gay marriage, military utilization, health care, biology, geochemistry, etc.

But there you go making the fallacy of personal experience.

Rhythm and Balls said...

That's not what I was talking about. Military utilization means using/not using the armed forces to settle personal grudges.

JPS said...

Rhythm and Balls,

"Conservatives by definition hate new knowledge."

Specious sophistry. You're just playing on terms. An American conservative, defined philosophically, wishes to conserve a classically liberal tradition. Lumping them in with all who simply resist change is one of the greatest stolen bases of the left.

And it results in such absurdities as the New York Times story announcing that "conservatives in the Kremlin" had cracked down on the importation of western books, including…The Conscience of a Conservative, by Barry Goldwater.

Bill Shamleffer said...

All of this talk per liberal professors, but other than unsubstantiated assumptions, no real evidence that these professors are not offering quality and broad minded teaching. I have heard for half a century that US college teaching leans liberal, yet conservatives have had an equal representation in US politics. I would think it is safe to say that there is no "liberal indoctrination" occurring, but rather students are learning the core principals and basics of their course work. Then through all of their other lifetime interactions and experiences, they determine their own principles & beliefs. The result is a country that roughly is equally split between liberal & conservative (although in reality, with a lot of fluidity by most of us between individual matters of debate). I am not overly idealistic per our US education system or every last teacher/professor, but in the big picture, the actual picture of America is proof positive, that in the end most us are NOT much influenced by the politics of any teacher.

Jupiter said...

Bill Shamleffer said...

"I would think it is safe to say that there is no "liberal indoctrination" occurring, but rather students are learning the core principals and basics of their course work."

And I would think it is safe to say that you lean so far left your tongue is dragging.