Contact: Matthew Felling
Statistical Assessment Service
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Washington, DC 20037
Study Finds Bias Against Conservatives on College Faculties
National Survey Shows Liberal Professors Outnumber Conservatives by 5 to 1
Males Outnumber Females by 3 to 1; Secular Profs Outnumber Churchgoers by 2 to 1
The most extensive survey in twenty years finds that American college and university professors
are overwhelmingly liberal and Democratic, and that conservative faculty teach at lower quality
schools than do liberal faculty with similar scholarly credentials. The study found that practicing
Christians and women are also disadvantaged in the competition for professional advancement.
These findings come from a randomly-based national survey of 1643 full-time faculty at 183
universities and four-year colleges. This study was directed by Prof. Stanley Rothman of Smith
College and co-authored by Prof Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto and Prof S. Robert
Lichter of George Mason University, who is also president of STATS. It appears in the March
issue of The Forum, a political science journal.
Liberal professors outnumber conservatives by nearly 5 to 1; in the general population
conservatives outnumber liberals by 2 to 1.
72% of faculty members identify themselves as liberal or left-wing, compared to only 15% who
say they are conservative or right-wing. 81% of professors in the humanities are liberal, as are
75% of social scientists and 67% of those in other fields. The proportion of self-described
liberals has nearly doubled-from 39% to 72% — since 1984. By contrast, the most recent
Harris Poll found that conservatives outnumber liberals in the general public by 36% to 18%.
Democratic professors outnumber conservatives by nearly 5 to 1; among the general public
there are three percent more Democrats than Republicans
Fifty percent are Democrats and eleven percent are Republicans; 33 percent are independents
and five percent belong to some other party. (The same Harris Poll reported that 34 percent of
the population were Democrats and 31 percent were Republicans.)
Liberal and Democratic professors teach at higher quality schools than do equally qualified
conservatives and Republicans
When compared to conservatives and Republicans with similar levels of scholarly achievement
(e.g., academic publication records, membership on academic journal editorial boards),
Democrats and Liberals teach at higher quality colleges and universities, as measured by US
News & World Report ratings.
As a result, 44% of liberals teach in “top tier schools” — major research universities and elite
liberal arts colleges, compared to 28% of conservatives. Similarly, 40% of Democrats teach in
such top-tier schools, compared to 27% of conservatives.
Regular churchgoers teach at lower quality schools than non-religious faculty, and women
teach at lower quality schools than men, with similar levels of achievement.
Only 24% of Christians who attend church weekly teach in top tier schools, compared to 47% of
those who “seldom or never” attend religious services.
Only 31% of women teach in top tier schools, compared to 41% of men.
Result: Faculties at the Best Schools Are Heavily Male, Liberal, and Secular
At top tier schools, 77% of faculty are male and 23% are female; 72% are liberal and 15% are
conservative; 19% are regular churchgoers and 51% rarely or never attend religious services.
Labels like “conservative” and “liberal” are borne out by the liberal social attitudes
obtained by the survey.
84 percent of professors are pro-choice on abortion, 67 percent believe “homosexuality is as
acceptable a lifestyle as heterosexuality,” 88 percent want more environmental protection “even
if it raises prices or costs jobs,” and 65 percent want the government to ensure full employment.
According to STATS President S. Robert Lichter, who co-authored the study, “These findings
suggest that intellectual diversity on college campuses may be as significant an issue as racial
and gender diversity. Even intelligent and broad-minded people may unconsciously favor people
like themselves and ideas like their own.”