By David Horowitz and Joseph Light
As a result of several recent studies of the political attitudes of academics by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, Klein and Stern, and Rothman and Lichter, it has been generally established that the representation of perspectives that lean to the left on college faculties is greater by an overwhelming margin than perspectives that may be called conservative, and that this margin ranges from 7-1 to as high as 30-1. As Professor Paul Krugman conceded in a column in The New York Times, “It’s a fact, documented by two recent studies, that registered Republicans and self-proclaimed conservatives make up only a small minority of professors at elite universities.”
The present study is an effort to look at the prevalence of this disparity in journalism and law schools. As a follow up to the research the Center for the Student of Popular Culture conducted three years ago on the political affiliations of professors in undergraduate social science departments, we decided to survey the political party registrations of 1021 faculty members at 18 elite journalism and law schools (9 each).
As in our original study, we used party affiliation as established by registration in political primaries as a proxy for ideology. While the measure is imperfect, it has the advantage of being an objective measure and also of reflecting a self-selection, rather than the imposition of a label by an observer. Its utility was confirmed by the similar statistics produced in regard to the social sciences by the Klein and Stern study employing a different (and more sophisticated) methodology.
Information about party registration is in most states publicly accessible. While it is not an academic category per se, party registration is the probably single best indicator of a subject’s disposition on a range of social, political and philosophical issues that are crucial to the professional fields under scrutiny. This is particularly true in an era of intense and increasingly partisan polarization in the political culture. The self-identification of individuals as “Democrat” and “Republican” through party registration reflects perspectives on a wide-range of issues that are important to Americans and to the social sciences themselves. This is especially true in the fields of journalism and law.
For reasons endemic to the methodology, we were unable to identify the party registrations of all 1021 faculty members at these institutions. Some lived outside the jurisdictions we surveyed. Others did not register to vote or were non-citizens. Some registered with third parties, primarily the Green Party. In a few cases, there was more than one individual sharing the same name. (See below for a more detailed description of our methodology.)
In all, we obtained Democratic or Republican Party identifications for 568 of these 1021 faculty members, or slightly more than half. We are confident that this is an accurate and representative sample of these faculties as a whole. Several considerations underpin this confidence. First, there is nothing to indicate that the faculty for whom we could not obtain data would reflect a different pattern from the ones we found. The distance an individual lives from a college is a personal choice, for example, that seems unlikely to correlate with ideology. Since primaries are known to attract the more partisan elements of each party it is unlikely that a higher percentage of faculty Republicans register for their primaries than do Democrats for theirs. Moreover, since we found more Green Party members than any other third party registrations, factoring them in would only increase the representation of those on the left. Finally, the data are consistent with the data collected for universities generally by others using more sophisticated methodologies that do not depend on party registrations. Each of the previous studies of college faculties, without exception, has revealed parallel ratios in the proportion of professors who lean to the left.
We selected law and journalism schools because these are professions that impact the fissures in the culture at large. Hardly a day goes by without a prominent conservative complaining about “liberal media bias” or a liberal warning of the dangers of “far-right judges.” Physicists teach the same laws of motion and optics whether they believe in high taxes or low ones; economic freedom or a welfare state. But, when it comes to interpreting the law or reporting on public affairs, everyone will agree that ideology and political pre-disposition matter. If law school faculties predominantly represent the views of the political left – as they do – this has far-ranging implications for the training of future lawyers and judges. The same holds true for journalism schools that are responsible for training future members of the nation’s press corps.
Before beginning work on this study, we believed that we might find a smaller ideological disproportion than we did when we surveyed undergraduate faculty members. These are professional training schools for work in the practical world. A majority of journalism professors and law professors are in fact recruited from the working world and have paid their dues in the “trenches” of their respective professions. As people with working experience, one would expect these adjuncts and faculty members to hold political views that at least roughly mirror the Red State/Blue State parity in the nation as a whole. This would be particularly true of law schools, since the legal profession is obviously a profession of choice for Republicans as well as Democrats.
These assumptions proved wrong. Our findings were straightforward and stark: America’s professional schools of journalism and law have collectively become a one party state. Students have little chance of encountering any ideological diversity in the classrooms of these schools. Only one school we surveyed, the University of Kansas Journalism School, showed genuine intellectual diversity. In one of the most conservative states in the Union-President Bush won 61 percent of the vote in 2001 and no Democrat has carried the state in 40 years — the University of Kansas Journalism School had slightly more Republicans than Democrats. In all, it had about 1.25 Republicans for every Democrat. The school seems to represent the nation”s Blue State/Red State spectrum reasonably well and thus, one can regard it as intellectually diverse.
Two schools we surveyed, Columbia Journalism School and Stanford Law School, maintain only a single registered Republican on their faculties. Berkeley Journalism School does not employ a single one. In a survey of 18 elite Journalism and Law schools we found 74 Republicans and 494 Democrats. Again, this does not factor in the representation of Green Party members.
The facts suggest that some applications of the term “conservative” to law schools in particular is not based in any empirical evidence. Among faculty whose party affiliation we were able to identify, the supposedly “liberal” Harvard University Law School counts 45 Democrats and only 7 Republicans for a ratio of roughly 6.5 to 1. On the other hand, the supposedly “conservative” University of Chicago Law School has 55 Democrats to 8 Republicans for a ratio of roughly 6.9 to 1. In short, law students at both Harvard and Chicago are trained by faculties that are committed by an overwhelming factor to one side of the core political controversies that divide us as a nation.
Outside the university community, liberals and conservatives contend for influence and power in segments of the population that are relatively evenly proportioned. Some small private colleges such as Michigan’s right-leaning Ave Maria Law School make their ideologies clear to all who apply. Such “proprietary schools” as they were once known, can provide useful (if doctrinally defined) educations. But the modern “research universities” that dominate the educational landscape – like Harvard and Chicago — claim to embrace the canons of academic freedom and provide a broad and diverse view of the intellectual spectrum. They promise to teach “the best that has been thought and known” rather than limiting themselves to ideas that conform to the views at one end of the intellectual spectrum.
When a school promises a diverse and inclusive education, it has an obligation to provide it. When the training institutions of entire professions – in this case law and journalism – fail to honor their commitment to academic freedom and intellectual pluralism, they and the nation at large have a serious problem.
How We Conducted the Study:
The studies were conducted during 2004 and 2005 using faculty listings obtained late in the summer of 2005. In each case, we followed a Four Step process:
First, our researchers obtained listings of faculty from school websites and, where available, university directories. In tabulating our findings, we counted all faculty members, including adjuncts and clinical faculty. We also did not count graduate students with teaching responsibilities and visiting faculty.
Second, we obtained voting records. In some jurisdictions, such as New York, these records were available online and CSPC staff in California conducted the research. In others, such as Illinois, gathering records necessitated a trip to local boards of elections and county clerks. In all cases, we gathered data from the jurisdiction where the school’s primary facilities were located. In a few cases, we looked in more than one jurisdiction. Not all professors, live in the same jurisdictions as the schools where they teach so, as discussed above, we did not always find the data we were seeking.
Third, we evaluated the data to ensure its quality. In evaluating the data, we took a number of safeguards to ensure that we did correctly identify the individuals who worked as professors. In general, we had two concerns: ensuring that we correctly identified the professor in question and making sure that we correctly ascribed a party label to that individual.
In most cases we found only one registered voter with the same name as a professor we were researching. In those cases, we made a determination that the professor and the registered voter were the same individual. In cases where we had home addresses for both professors and voter records, we double-checked professors’ names against home addresses. Also in cases where dates of B.A. degrees were listed, we crosschecked those with the birth dates on voting registrations. In a handful of cases, we used commonsense tests: when we turned up one person living very near to a university campus and another individual with the same name living on the opposite side of the state, we assumed that the professor in question lived near where he or she worked. We did this only rarely. In general, we made determinations in favor of leaving people out rather than including them.
For most of the states we surveyed, determining party is a simple matter of self-selection. Republicans register as Republicans and Democrats as Democrats. In a few states, however, voting records show the primaries that individuals voted in but do not include party registrations. In these cases, we determined party based on primary voting patterns. Individuals who had voted consistently in the primaries of one party were determined to be members of that party. A professor who voted in two Democratic primaries and no other primaries was labeled a Democrat. In cases where professors had ever participated in the nominating process of multiple parties, we examined the results of the last three primary elections they had voted in: if all three were the same party, we counted a professor as a member of that party. Otherwise, we counted the individual as an independent. We did not play guessing games with those registered as members of third parties. While members of New York State’s Conservative Party generally vote Republican in national elections, we did not assume that Conservative Party members were Republicans, nor did we assume that they were not. We made the same judgment in regard to Green Party members, even though they are known to vote Democrat in contested national elections.
Finally, we supplemented our initial research by e-mailing professors we couldn’t otherwise make a determination about to ask them their party affiliation. Not surprisingly perhaps, very few responded. When professors did respond, we tabulated the data and included their responses as part of our data.
The results are as follows:
(R=Republican D=Democrat G=Green NP=Non-Partisan NR=Not registered C=Constitutional L=Libertarian)
|Law School Study||D||R||NP||NR||D/R ratio|
|Columbia University||46||2||G-1||4||19||23: 1|
|Harvard University||45||7||12||16||6: 1|
|New York University||68||5||9||15||14: 1|
|Northwestern University||29||7||23||42||4: 1|
|Stanford University||28||1||G-1||6||21||28: 1|
|University of California (Berkeley)||55||6||G-2||6||41||9: 1|
|University of Chicago||56||8||11||25||7: 1|
|University of Pennsylvania||27||8||C-1||3||12||3: 1|
|University of Southern California||30||4||L-1||3||27||8: 1|
|Yale University||46||5||13||11||9: 1|
|Journalism School Study||D||R||NP||NR||D/R ratio|
|Columbia University||15||1||2||8||15: 1|
|New York University||8||2||0||10||4: 1|
|Northwestern University||12||3||9||13||4: 1|
|Ohio University (Scripps)||9||2||14||5||5: 1|
|Syracuse University (Newhouse)||27||6||7||26||5: 1|
|University of California (Berkeley)||10||0||1||12||10: 0|
|University of Kansas (White)||8||10||7||10||1: 1.25|
|University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill)||18||4||2||19||5: 1|
|University of Southern California||13||1||G-1||4||15||13: 1|
 “Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite
Colleges and Universities,”
 E.g., Professor Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern, “How Politically
Diverse Are The Social Sciences and Humanities.”
 Stanley Rothman and Robert Lichter, “Politics and Professional
Advancement Among College Faculty,” The Forum, Volume 3, Issue 1, 2005
 Paul Krugman, “An Academic Question,” New York Times, April 5, 2005