* Leftist Dominance in Academia

Additional Resources

In its famous 1915 Declaration of Principles on Academic Freedom and Academic Tenure, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) issued a landmark statement on the doctrine of academic freedom and the purpose and function of the modern university. The premise of this report was that human knowledge is a never-ending pursuit of the truth; that there is no humanly accessible truth that is not in principle open to challenge; and that no party or intellectual faction can be assumed to have a monopoly on wisdom. Therefore, learning is most likely to thrive in an environment of intellectual diversity that protects and fosters independence of thought and speech.

For several decades following the issuance of this declaration, a true climate of debate and dialogue flourished at American universities. A dramatic change occurred in the 1960s, however, when the eradication of free speech and free thought took root on those very same campuses. Indeed, liberal arts colleges from coast to coast began to abandon the AAUP’s ideals, transforming themselves into a university monoculture dedicated to propagating the positions and philosophies of the far left while systematically excluding views, particularly conservative ones, which did not accord with their outlook. This trend has continued, unabated, ever since.

Consequently, individuals who today subscribe to conservative ideas—whether administrators, faculty, or students—find it exceedingly difficult to find a niche for themselves in the academic universe. This stands in direct violation of the AAUP’s guiding documents, which maintain that intellectual pluralism and a diversity of viewpoints are essential for academic institutions to carry out their proper function of enabling dialogue and pursuing truth.

The vastly disproportionate presence of leftist professors on university campuses across the United States has been well documented. One of the first studies on this subject was conducted in 2003 by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture (CSPC, now called the David Horowitz Freedom Center), which examined the ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans on the faculties of 32 elite colleges and universities nationwide. The purpose of this study was to challenge the academic left’s assertion that discrimination on the basis of political views was not a factor in hiring or tenure decisions.

In its examinations of more than 150 departments and upper-level administrations at the 32 colleges and universities, the CSPC found that the overall ratio of registered Democrats to registered Republicans was greater than than 10-to-1 (1,397 Democrats, 134 Republicans). Although in the nation at large, registered Democrats and Republicans were roughly equal in number, not a single department at any of the 32 schools managed to achieve anything even remotely approaching parity in party affiliations. The closest any school came to parity was Northwestern University, where 80% of the faculty members were registered Democrats and 20% were registered Republicans. At other schools, the ratios of faculty Democrats to faculty Republicans were even more extreme, such as 30-to-1 at Brown University, and 14-to-1 at both Yale and Columbia. At four schools—Williams, Oberlin, MIT and Haverford—the researchers could not identify a single Republican faculty member.

It was found, moreover, that administrators at the 32 schools examined in the CSPC study leaned just as far to the left as did the faculties: At schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Melon, and Cornell, not a single Republican administrator could be found. In the entire Ivy League, the researchers were able to identify only 3 Republican administrators.

The CSPC’s 2003 survey inspired a spate of further studies which corroborated its findings. For example, a 2005 national survey directed by Smith College Professor Stanley Rothman and co-authored by Professors Neil Nevitte (University of Toronto) and S. Robert Lichter (George Mason University) found that left-leaning professors outnumbered conservatives by a ratio of 5-to-1 on American campuses.

The survey questioned 1,643 full-time faculty at 183 universities and four-year colleges about their political and religious views. Among its findings were that 72% of faculty members identified themselves as liberal or left-wing, as compared to only 15% who identified as conservative or right-wing. When the numbers were broken down by field, the dearth of conservatives was even more apparent in fields where a professor’s political views have a higher likelihood of influencing the instruction that takes place in the classroom. For instance, 81% of professors in the humanities described themselves as liberal, as did 75% of those in the social sciences—vs. 67% of those in other fields.

The Rothman study further found that the proportion of faculty who described themselves as liberal had nearly doubled over the preceding two decades—from 39% in 1984 to 72% in 2005. The study’s co-author, Prof. Lichter, stated: “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.”

Another survey of faculty political views released in 2006 by Professors Christopher Cardiff and Daniel Klein yielded similar results. Cardiff and Klein looked at the political party registration records for tenure-track faculty at 11 California universities—including large public universities as well as smaller, religiously-affiliated campuses. The ratios they uncovered, particularly in certain departments, were striking. In the field of sociology, for instance, the researchers found a Democrat-to-Republican ratio of 44-to-1, whereas in the humanities overall the ratio was 10-to-1.

These findings were again replicated in 2007 by Professors Neil Gross of Harvard and Solon Simmons of George Mason University, who surveyed a random sampling of more than 1,400 faculty members teaching at 500+ colleges and universities across the United States. They asked these instructors, “When it comes to politics, do you usually think of yourself as extremely liberal, liberal, slightly liberal, moderate or middle of the road, slightly conservative, conservative, or very conservative?”

Gross and Simmons’ results indicated that 9.4% of respondents considered themselves “extremely liberal” and 34.7% considered themselves “liberal,” as compared with 1.2% who labeled themselves “very conservative” and 8.0% who answered “conservative.” Overall, only 19.7% of respondents identified themselves as any shade of conservative, as compared to 62.2% who identified themselves as any shade of liberal.

Gross and Simmons also found, consistent with other studies, that an even wider gap between liberals and conservatives existed in the social sciences and the humanities. Among faculty in the social sciences, 58.2% declared themselves to be liberals, versus 4.9% who self-identified as conservatives. In the humanities, 52.2% of professors classified themselves as liberal, versus only 3.6% who responded that they were conservative. (The remainder claimed to be moderates.)

In 2012 the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute released the results of surveys it had conducted (at three-year intervals) on a national range of faculty at four-year colleges and universities. When surveyed in 2007-08, 8.8% of faculty respondents self-identified as being on the “far left” and 47.0% as “liberal,” as compared with 0.7% who identified as being on the “far right” and 15.2% who viewed themselves as “conservative.” Three years later, in 2010-11, the same survey found that 12.4% now identified as “far left” and 50.3% as “liberal,” while only 0.4% claimed to be “far right” and 11.5% viewed themselves as “conservative.”

These increasingly lopsided figures suggest that most students at these schools probably graduate without ever taking a class taught by a professor with a conservative viewpoint. The ratios themselves are impossible to understand in the absence of a political litmus test in the training and hiring of college instructors. They strongly suggest that the governance of American universities has fallen into the hands of a self-perpetuating political and cultural subset of the general population, which seems intent on perpetuating its own dominant position.

Without further investigation it is not possible to establish with certainty why this state of affairs has come into existence, but there are many obvious factors that may be said to have contributed to it. Among them is the very exclusion of conservatives from faculty and administrative positions itself. This in itself creates a hostile environment for conservative students contemplating an academic career.

In a 2012 peer-reviewed study on political diversity in the field of social psychology, psychologists Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers of Tilburg University (in the Netherlands) confirmed that such discrimination against conservative colleagues does exist. The researchers found: “In decisions ranging from paper reviews to hiring, many social and personality psychologists admit that they would discriminate against openly conservative colleagues.” When the survey participants were asked to choose between two equally qualified candidates—one conservative and one liberal—fully one-third admitted that they would discriminate against the conservative. One professor surveyed even wrote that if his department “could figure out who was a conservative, they would be sure not to hire them.”

The Inbar/Lammers study also found that those professors most willing to admit that they would discriminate against conservatives, were also least likely to believe that conservatives face a hostile climate in academia.

This core hostility to conservatives in academia is amplified by practices that have been incorporated into academic life since the 1960s, including campus speech codes and politicized classrooms—both of which represent radical departures from the pre-Sixties academic environment. An extensive 2003 study by Harvey Silvergate, co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), concluded that an “overwhelming majority” of campuses had instituted speech codes intended to ban and punish politically incorrect, almost always conservative, speech. Similarly, a 2012 study by FIRE found that 62% of American universities had speech codes “that prohibit expression protected by the First Amendment.”


Additional Resources

Partisan Registration and Contributions of Faculty in Flagship Colleges
By The National Association of Scholars
January 17, 2020

College Professors Donate to Democrats over Republicans by Ratio of 95-to-1: Study
By Spencer Neale
January 23, 2020

YAF’s Comedy and Tragedy, 2018-2019
By YAF.org
2019

The Disappearing Conservative Professor
By Jon A. Shields
Fall 2018

How Politically Biased Are Colleges? New Study Finds It’s Far Worse Than Anybody Thought.
By The Daily Wire
May 3, 2018

Professors and Politics: What the Research Says
By Inside Higher Education
February 27, 2017

Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology
By Mitchell Langbert, Anthony J. Quain, and Daniel B. Klein
September 2016

Liberal Professors Outnumber Conservatives Nearly 12 to 1, Study Finds
By Bradford Richardson
October 6, 2016

39% of Colleges Have 0 Republican Professors
By One News Now
May 5, 2018

These Three Charts Confirm Conservatives’ Worst Fears About American Culture
By Andy Kiersz and Hunter Walker
November 3, 2014

Political Diversity in Social and Personality Psychology
By Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers
2012

Undergraduate Teaching Faculty: The 2010-2011 HERI Faculty Survey
By Sylvia Hurtado, Kevin Eagan, John H. Pryor, Hannah Whang, and Serge Tran
October 2012

Moving Further to the Left
By Scott Jaschik
October 24, 2012

Survey Shocker: Liberal Profs Admit They’d Discriminate against Conservatives in Hiring, Advancement
By Emily Esfahani Smith
August 1, 2012

The Social and Political Views of American Professors
By Neil Gross and Solon Simmons
September 24, 2007

A Profile of American College Faculty: Vol. I – Political Beliefs and Behaviors
By Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg
December 2006

Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty
By Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter and Neil Nevitte
2005

How Politically Diverse Are the Social Sciences and Humanities?
By Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern
2004

Sociology and Classical Liberalism
By Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern
June 29, 2006

Professors and Their Politics: The Policy Views of Social Scientists
By Daniel Klein and Lotta Stern
October 21, 2005

27-0 at the University of Iowa
By Mark Moyar
October 15, 2007

If the Law Is an Ass, the Law Professor Is a Donkey [Study of Law Schools]
By Adam Liptak
August 29, 2005

Faculty Partisan Affiliations in All Disciplines [at 11 California universities]: A Voter-Registration Study
By Christopher F. Cardiff and Daniel B. Klein
July 28, 2006

Survey Reveals Pervasive Political Pressure in the Classroom
By The American Council of Trustees and Alumni
December 6, 2004

Inside the Mind of an Ivy League Professor
By Frank Luntz
August 30, 2002

How Many Democrats Per Republican at UC-Berkeley and Stanford? (Voter Registration Data Across 23 Academic Departments)
By Andrew Klein and Daniel Western
2004

Law Professors [at 21 Law Schools] Lean Left, Study Finds
By John Gravois
September 23, 2005

Study Finds Liberals Dominate Faculties
By Joyce Howard Price
March 30, 2005

Political Diversity of UNLV Faculty
By Adriana Jawel, et al.
Spring 2004

The Myths of Faculty “Diversity” [at Southern Illinois University]
By Jonathan Bean
October 3, 2002

Conformity on Campus
By Marvin Olasky
December 18, 2004

Political Bias in the Administrations and Faculties of 32 Elite Colleges and Universities
By The Center for the Study of Popular Culture
2004

Representation of Ideological Perspectives on 18 Elite Law and Journalism Faculties Shows that Democrats Outnumber Republicans by 7-1
By David Horowitz and Joseph Light
November 22, 2005

LINKS:

The CollegeFix.com

CampusReform.org

POLITICAL DONATIONS BY ACADEMICIANS:

We can learn a great deal about the political orientation of college and university professors by examining which candidates and parties they support financially. Research shows that professors nationwide give an overwhelming majority of their political donations to Democrats.

Yale Faculty Donate Overwhelmingly to Democrats
By Yale News
November 6, 2018

Professor Campaign Donations Overwhelmingly Favor Democrats
By The Fordham Ram
November 14, 2018

Kennedy School Faculty Donated Overwhelmingly to Democrats Ahead of 2018 Midterms
By The Harvard Crimson
November 6, 2018

99.5% Cornell Faculty, Academics’ Donations Given to Left-Leaning Groups
By The Cornell Sun
November 5, 2018

Harvard Faculty Donate to Democrats by Wide Margin
By The Harvard Crimson
May 1, 2015

96 Percent of Ivy League Professors’ Donations Went to Obama
By Perry Chiaramonte
November 28, 2012

Penn State Professors’ Political Donations Lean Left
By Kevin Horne
December 11, 2012

Professors Stock Obama’s Campaign War Chest
By Luke Rosiak
September 20, 2012

Professors Donate to Obama, Opine About Election in News Articles
By Bob Cusack
October 16, 2012

Yale Faculty Give Big to Democrats
By Christopher Peak
November 16, 2012

College Professors, Administrators Heavily Invested in Midterm Political Elections
By Lauren Hepler
September 22, 2010

Voting With Their Wallets, College Profs Overwhelmingly Support Democrats
By Catherine Rampell
September 24, 2010

Many California University Leaders Back Democrats
By Jennifer Kabbany
October 8, 2012

Professors Fund the Left
By Melisa Gao
September 15, 2004

Political Giving at Ivy League Schools
By Students for Academic Freedom
July 2004