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The Contented Professors: How Conservative Faculty See Themselves within the Academy


Abstract and Figures

Liberal faculty have long outnumbered conservative faculty on college campuses and that quantity has increased substantially over the past decade. I formally show that over 60% of faculty identify as liberal compared to just over 10% being conservative in 2014 and this is quite a change from the parity present in the early 1980s. This previously unspecified ideological imbalance on campuses has led to cries of discrimination against right of center professors and scores of reports from both academic and popular press sources which have chronicled the concerns with this “beleaguered” and “oppressed” minority on campus. Drawing on the decadeslong faculty survey from the Higher Education Research Institute, I empirically examine how conservative faculty actually see themselves on campuses today and inject quantitative measures into the debate about ideological diversity among our nation’s professors. The data clearly reveal that conservative faculty are not only as satisfied with their career choice - if not more so - as their liberal counterparts, but that these faculty are also as progressive in their teaching methods and maintain almost identical outlooks toward their personal and professional lives.
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The Contented Professors:
How Conservative Faculty See Themselves within the Academy
Samuel J. Abrams
Professor of Politics and Social Science, Sarah Lawrence College, 610-420-6706 (Mobile)
Sarah Lawrence College.
One Mead Way
Bronxville, NY 10708
Draft: November 29, 2016.
N.B. No IRB was required as the data is redacted aggregate
Acknowledgements: Thank you to the Faith Ziesing Fund in the Social Science and the Dean of
the College Office at Sarah Lawrence College for the financial support to complete this study.
Special thanks to Rachael Wagner, Jon Haidt, Sean Stevens, and Jeremy Willinger and my
wonderful colleagues within Sarah Lawrence College, the Heterodox Academy, and the
Academy Engagement Network for their thoughts and feedback.
The Contented Professors:
How Conservative Faculty See Themselves within the Academy
Liberal faculty have long outnumbered conservative faculty on college campuses and that
quantity has increased substantially over the past decade. I formally show that over 60% of
faculty identify as liberal compared to just over 10% being conservative in 2014 and this is quite
a change from the parity present in the early 1980s. This previously unspecified ideological
imbalance on campuses has led to cries of discrimination against right of center professors and
scores of reports from both academic and popular press sources which have chronicled the
concerns with this “beleaguered” and “oppressed” minority on campus. Drawing on the decades-
long faculty survey from the Higher Education Research Institute, I empirically examine how
conservative faculty actually see themselves on campuses today and inject quantitative measures
into the debate about ideological diversity among our nation’s professors. The data clearly reveal
that conservative faculty are not only as satisfied with their career choice - if not more so - as
their liberal counterparts, but that these faculty are also as progressive in their teaching methods
and maintain almost identical outlooks toward their personal and professional lives.
Keywords: campus culture, professors, politics, professorial careers, ideology, survey data.
Over the past few years, pundits, professors, and the press have been crafting a narrative
around a deeply disparaged and discriminated class of people on college and university
campuses- the class, conservative faculty. Scores of reports have chronicled the substantial
decline of conservative professors on college campuses (Abrams 2016) and have noted a striking
change in terms of viewpoint diversity with liberals and progressives dominating college lecture
halls and campus spaces nationwide. Willick (2016) has observed that, “Despite (or perhaps
because of) it’s almost religious reverence for racial and sexual diversity, the academy has
allowed political diversity in certain quarters to wither to the point of vanishing.” The rapid
disappearance of right of center leaning faculty – the “plight of conservatives” within higher
education - has led to conservative professors now being characterized as being as being part of a
“beleaguered minority” (Jeffers 2015) and are the rare “campus unicorns.” (Shields and Dunn
Given the fairly subjective nature of academic publishing and promotion, the potential
implications for being out of step with the ideological leanings of the overwhelming majority can
be very problematic for conservative leaning professors. In a scathing review of this problem,
Kristof (2016ab) wrote in the New York Times that it is the academic liberals who have become
the “illiberal ones” by marginalizing conservatives within the academy and summarizes the
general sense on campuses today where liberal faculty, “welcome people who don’t look like us,
as long as they think like us.” While a sensationalist source, The New York Post went so far as to
report that conservative professors are now “a minority is being systematically repressed in
America’s elite institutions.” (Smith 2016)
Functionally, this disdain for conservative ideological leanings among faculty can and has
created non-trivial problems for the professoriate including what Kristof describes as a “torrent
of scorn.” Simply engaging with colleagues both personally and professionally on campus can be
a serious challenge for many on the right given the lopsided liberal bend of the academy. Such
homogeneity among college faculty and being out of the mainstream can impact professional and
personal standing, tenure and various promotions, and awards such as a grants and publication
rates in both campus and professional group settings. (Lu 2016)
Recent evidence has emerged which documents the difficulties for those on the right. A
recent paper by Inbar and Lammers (2012), for instance, looked at 800 social psychologists, for
instance, and found a widespread hostility and willingness to discriminate openly against their
conservative peers and the more liberal the faculty member was, the more likely they were to
discriminate. Inbar and Lammers write that, “One in six respondents said that she or he would be
somewhat (or more) inclined to discriminate against conservatives in inviting them for symposia
or reviewing their work. One in four would discriminate in reviewing their grant applications.
More than one in three would discriminate against them when making hiring decisions. Thus,
willingness to discriminate is not limited to small decisions. In fact, it is strongest when it comes
to the most important decisions, such as grant applications and hiring.” (Inbar and Lammers
2012: 5-6) Prior to these findings, Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitte (2005) discovered that socially
conservative professors tend to work at lower-ranked institutions than their publication records
would predict. Writing in 2009, Rothman and Lichter argued that, “…even after taking into
account the effects of academic achievement, along with many other individual characteristics,
social (but not political/economic) conservatives taught at lower-quality schools than did
liberals…[such that] conservatism confers a disadvantage in the competition for professional
advancement.” (Rothman and Lichter 2009: 74-75) While these findings do not cover the entire
academy and may have flaws in terms of methodology, these are known findings that continue to
fuel concerns about bias and fairness for those faculty on the right.
Looking at how students view and evaluate professors, Woessner and Woessner (2006)
found that when there is a perception that there faculty and student ideologies are out of
alignment, students report lower interest in the course material, look less favorability on the class
itself, and often give the professor lower evaluation marks on the course itself which can impact
tenure and promotion as well. Collectively, it is unsurprising that observers have reported that
many conservatives are essentially “forced” into “passing” where almost substantial numbers of
right leaning professors have adopted measures to hide and mask their thinking and ideological
The most detailed work to date on the plight of conservative professors comes from Shields
and Dunn (2016) who interview 153 right-leaning faculty and present a mixed picture on life for
those conservative faculty on campus. On one hand, the authors find that conservative faculty are
not necessarily given fair treatment on campus (111) and that many disciplines and subfields —
including sociology, literature and modern American history — are “unsafe spaces” for right-
wing thinkers. The authors make the case that conservative thinkers in particular fields need
Teflon coating which is why certain fields are often avoided entirely. Furthermore, Shields and
Dunn reference numerous reports which mention that right of center thinkers have less
representation that all other targets of affirmative actions and stories which show explicit
attempts to avoid hiring overt gun enthusiasts, evangelicals, and Republicans. Work by Yancey
(2011) and Tobin and Weinberg (2005), Mary Grabar (2013) and Gross (2013) confirm similar
On the other hand, Shields and Dunn (2016b) also reveal that many of the extremes described
above may be overblown and that there are many conservative faculty who, “survive and even
thrive in one of America’s most progressive professions.” Other conservative faculty have made
similar more positive claims. Classically liberal economist Daniel Klein (2010) has written that
“I’ve never dreaded telling an acquaintance I’m a professor… I hang out with a lot of non-left
professors. I’ve never heard any say he dreaded people’s reaction to the professor revelation.”
(377) In 2012, Matthew Woessner argued that while those on the Right face challenges, his
research into the question of discrimination “offers little evidence that conservative students or
faculty are the victims of widespread ideological persecution. In waging their high-profile
crusade against ideological bias in the academy, activists such as David Horowitz may be
overstating the extent to which conservatives are mistreated on campuses.” (Woessner 2012)
All of this begs the simple question – what is really going on in the minds of conservative
faculty? Are these professors truly feeling like an “oppressed minority” on college campuses
today? (Jaschik 2015)Using 25 years of data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research
Institute’s (HERI) triennial survey of college faculty, I find that the while conservatives are a
small minority among higher education faculty today and have been shrinking, their institutional
priorities and approaches toward teaching and engaging with students in the classroom are
basically identical to their liberal counterparts. Conservative faculty on the whole are just as
happy as their liberal counterparts if not more so. In 2014, two-thirds of conservative faculty
responded “Definitely Yes” – the most positive on a 5 point scale – to the question “If you were
to begin your career again, would you: still want to be a college professor?” 58 percent was the
national average for all faculty and 56 percent liberal faculty responded in such a positive way –
ten points lower than right leaning faculty. The HERI faculty data, data which is the largest pool
of data on faculty ideology and views in existence, reveals that there are minimal differences
based on with regard to job satisfaction which strongly suggests that the feelings of oppression
and discrimination may be overstated despite the regular reports of hostility and bias.
The political ideologies, behaviors, and various attitudes of America’s college and university
professors have been studied for decades but rarely in systematic ways to allow scholars to
explicitly capture change over time. As Gross and Solons note, “the sociology of intellectuals has
long been the purview of scholars who are wedded to comparative-historical methods and
steered clear of quantitative research involved the analysis of data from social surveys, even
when studying recent periods.” (Gross and Simmons 2014b: 6) One-off studies of particular
groups of schools or types of faculty have been examined for years (Klein and Stern 2009) such
as a large scale examination of 11 California universities in 2004 through 2005 (Cardiff and
Klein 2005) or a 2015 examination of 1,355 UNC Chapel Hill professors using the NC State
Board of Elections state’s online public voter database. (Dent 2016) However, these are not
longitudinal or capture nationwide trends over time whatsoever.
In terms of larger studies, quite a bit of research on the political leanings of college
professors has drawn on a series of national surveys conducted by the Carnegie Commission on
Higher Education in 1969 and 1975 (Ladd and Lipset 1975) and then the Carnegie Foundation
for the Advancement of Teaching in 1984. After the early waves of work with Carnegie and
decades of related work, Lipset (1982) concluded “A number of surveys of American
professorial opinion, taken since World War II, have shown that, as a group, academics are more
likely than any occupational group, including manual workers, to identify their views as left or
liberal, to support a wide variety of egalitarian social and economic policies, and to back small
leftist third parties and/or vote Democratic. (Lipset 1982: 144)
As quite a bit of social and institutional change has swept the nation and college campuses,
newer and larger scale work has been conducted since the Carnegie surveys and but these are one
off works or are severely limited in scope and scale and are almost a decade old. Two notable
studies include the Carnegie/Lipset inspired 1999 North American Academic Study Survey
(NAASS) (Rothman, Woessner, and Woessner 2011) and the 2006 Gross and Solon Politics of
the American Professoriate (PAP) stratified random sample of 1,417 faculty teaching in
departments offering undergraduate degrees at 927 two-year, four-year, and graduate-degree-
granting institutions. (Gross and Simmons 2014a) The NAASS study was problematic because
the sample was skewed as community colleges were not included and over 40% of American
college students have gone through these institutions. (Gross and Simmons 2007) The 2006 PAP
survey was more robust but employed 7-point ideology scales akin to the American National
Election Studies and the General Social Survey. These scales are not comparable to the 5 points
Carnegie scale (Gross and Simmons 2014c) and leads to odd, seemingly off trend results when
collapsing the scale to match other findings. (Rothman and Lichter 2008: 65-67) The work of
Fosse and Gross (2010) takes advantage of data from the General Social Survey and found 326
professors in the sample from 1974 through 2008. Of course, this is hardly a representative
grouping whatsoever and makes any longitudinal comparison over time a challenge due to small
annual sample sizes. Additionally, the GSS reveals little about the types of schools and roles
those faculty play in their home institutions thus limiting the value of the sample itself.
As for the important qualitative work from Shields and Dunn (2016) already referenced, the
authors do offer some formal empirical reporting in the work to supplement the narratives of
their interviews, but the work is severely limited by a few key problems. The first is that Shields
and Dunn only focused on self-described conservatives and they admit that they rely on a broad
definition of conservativism and classical liberalism (10-11) which is hardly offering a set of
choices to a random sample and can lead to non-trivial subjective conclusions and formalizations
of ideas presented in the empirical reporting in the work. As for samples, the second concern is
that Shields and Dunn relied on snowball and peer referral methods to recruit their 153 faculty
members on 84 campuses. This approach certainly biases which professors are actually
interviewed. The authors limited their study to six fields in the humanities and social sciences --
economics, political science, sociology, history, philosophy and literature. Shields and Dunn
selected these fields with the idea that ideology and politics influences thinking in these 6 areas
more significantly than practical fields including the natural sciences, math, technology,
engineering and professional studies (10-11) The authors note that these six “represent a broad
spectrum of humanistic knowledge and because they each have distinct political valences.” (11)
While Shields and Dunn should be commended to the deep work that they did in terms of
interviewing such a large number of faculty, a larger and more formal analysis of faculty
ideologies and attitudes to further contextualize conservatives and change over time in the
academy is needed.
Accordingly, I offer long-term data on how ideology has not only changed but intersects with
how conservative college and university faculty see themselves in the larger academic
community. The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA has conducted triennial
surveys of undergraduate teaching faculty for the past 25 years and the survey items match up
with many earlier Carnegie study items as well. This enables me to offer a longitudinal picture
of faculty attitudes over time though 2014 avoid many of the problems with the one-off studies
cited above. The HERI samples are huge — tens of thousands of professors across all forms of
institutions and departments – and the samples have been gathered and queried in a robust
manner over time which allows for a far more clear and empirically valid understanding of
professors, their attitudes toward being in the academy, and their political ideologies than any
other formal empirical conducted work to date.
Before any comparison of liberals and conservatives in the academy is undertaken, it is
valuable to have a clear sense of the ideological changes that have occurred over time among
college and university faculty. Figure 1 presents three 45 year trends using a collapsed 5 point
liberal-conservative ideology scale for college students, the general public, and members of the
professoriate. For each group, I have collapsed the extremes (Far Left and Liberal and Far Right
and Conservative) and created a three point index from which I created left:right ratios which
examine liberals in relation to conservatives for the American polity, college and university
freshman, and college and university faculty. What is immediately clear is that the American
professoriate has significantly moved toward the left from the American norm which is actually a
slightly right of center position in the United States.
The results are quite striking and reveal a number of powerful and robust trends over a
significant period of time. The first is that the ideological leanings American polity has remained
remarkably consistent over the past 5 decades as the trend for Americans as a whole is
essentially flat. Gallup data which uses the same scale as the HERI data reveals that there has
been virtually no change in the ratio whatsoever among the general public which leans somewhat
to the right with a mean ratio of .59. Second, looking at college freshman, who are also queried
as they arrive on campuses by HERI, there is relative stability since 1987 with the mean over
those 27 years hovering around 1.29. The average over the 45 year period was higher at 1.36 – a
slight lean to the left- and this all occurred during the 1970s when incoming college freshmen
were more politically left than both their professors and the general public. Third, looking at
1987 once again is also a moment in time when professors began making their sharp climb
leftward and away from the general public and from the American public at large and continued
to pull away over the next 30 years.
Figure 1. About Here
The faculty turn to the left requires more elaboration for the professoriate’s left:right ratio
jumped from a low point of 1.17 in 184 to a high point of 5.27 in 2011 and while there was a
slight decline in 2014 to 4.67, this represents an approximate increase of 350% By 2014, the
American polity leaned to the right at 0.63 and the nation’s college freshman leaned left at 1.51
meaning that college freshman 2.3 times as more liberal than the nation as a whole and faculty
are 7.4 times more liberal and increasingly out of step with the direction of the country as a
whole. Moreover, all of the samples are quite large and nationally representative. I repeat this
fact about the data because the minor variations over the 45 year period for Americans despite
the changing definitions of ideology and partisan sorting among the electorate as a whole suggest
that the transformation is very real on the faculty side. It seems reasonable to conclude that it is
academics who shifted, as there is relatively stability among college students and no equivalent
movement among the masses whatsoever.
Thinking about the national trend in Figure 1 compared to faculty, one could argue that in
aggregate, I did not account for increasing liberalism present in those Americans who hold a
graduate degree. According to the General Social Survey from 2014, of those who have a
graduate degree of some sort, 30% identify as liberal or extremely liberal and 17% are
conservative or extremely conservative. While the GSS is a 7 point scale, the point is that the
two extreme left and extreme right spots make for a liberal: conservative ratio of 1.8 – a far cry
from 5 value among college professors. Additionally, in contrast to graduate degree holders,
those Americans who have a high school degree or less, 13% identify as liberal or extremely
liberal and 20% identify as are conservative or extremely conservative – a figure more in line
with the national average. So, even if definitions of partisanship and ideology have shifted over
time, Figure 1 makes it very clear that in the aggregate those who shape the minds of many in
college are liberal and the shift is nontrivial.
Conservatives in Academia
While many narratives on the plight of conservatives in academia generate attention, Shields
and Dunn (2016) should be commended for arguing that conservative attitudes toward the
academy may not be as bad as widely believed. To be sure, it is absolutely the case that members
of college and university faculty have shifted drastically to the left over the past 45 years and this
is notably different from the American population on the whole. Cohen’s 2010 pronouncement
that “Professor Is a Label that Leans to the Left” is empirically true but the extant qualitative
work that exists could benefit from a more flush and larger picture of conservatives. The HERI
data offers some additional insight into the question of conservative professors and how they
view their time in colleges and universities today. The 25 years HERI data reveals a far less
bleak picture for conservative college and university professors and one where conservative
professional satisfaction is actually the same or even better than liberals on campuses today.
Figure 2. About Here
Figure 2 presents data on “Definitely Yes” responses to the question “Do you still want to
be a college professor?” where respondents were given 5 choices and I have plotted the only
choice where an absolutely affirmative answer was offered as opposed to including a more
neutral “not sure” or “probably yes.” I have included a line which includes all college and
university teaching faculty and trends for each group of faculty based on their responses to the
HERI 5-point ideology question over the past few decades. The figure reveals that, by 2014, a
clear majority – roughly 60% - of all faculty still want to be a college professor despite the
constant issues with student activism, budget cuts, and issues of publishing and free speech. In
contrast, only 4.4% are on the negative side and 15% are not sure and 58.7% “definitely yes”
represents a 30 percent increase over the 25 year period for faculty as a whole suggesting relative
content with the career choice. When “probably yes” is included with “definitely yes,” 85% of
the professorate are generally happy with their career choice by affirming that they would still
like to be a college professor. Those faculty in the ideological center, a relatively small number
at 27% of all faculty, essentially tracked general trend and it is the liberal and conservative
extremes where the key differences can be found.
It is quite clear from the HERI data that not only are large numbers of college and university
faculty are comfortable with their career choice and that level of satisfaction has been growing
in all sectors over the past 25 years, but also that here are minimal differences when faculty
ideology is factored in. When looking at the “Definitely Yes” responses in Figure 2 by the 5
point ideology scale, the differences between those on the far right and far left are on average
only 6 points over the 25 year period even with the far right trend being a bit noisy. Figure 2
clearly illustrates that despite the cumulative sharp tilt to the left ideologically, by 2014 those
who identified as conservative and far right – 12.8% of the sample - were actually more satisfied
with their career choice at almost 65 percent compared to those on the left – 59.8% of the
sample- who were about 57 percent satisfied. Remarkably, far right identifiers are almost 8
points more happy compared to their far left identifiers (66 to 58) and conservatives are 6 points
happier than their liberal peers (63 to 57). All of which suggests that the notion that
conservatives are not managing well being considered an “oppressed minority” on college
campuses may be overblown.
Table 1. About Here
A similar general trend of conservatives being more satisfied compared to liberals and the
same scale of difference between those on the left and right is present in Table 1 which looks at
ideology collapsed but presents the data by tenured and un-tenured faculty as well. What is
remarkable here is that not only are those tenured faculty on the right generally as satisfied as
those tenured on the left, but that job satisfaction among untenured faculty has been steadily
climbing and that those untenured on the right are notably happier than those on the left. Over
the past decade, untenured conservatives have been – on average - 9 points higher on the
satisfaction scale then untenured liberals and more closely parallel their tenured conservative
counterparts. Those untenured on the left have been notably less happy compared to their tenured
liberal peers and, since 2007, are almost 10 points lower and appear to be the group that is out of
scale with the tenured faculty and untenured conservatives. The average difference between
tenured and untenured liberals is 9.3 while that number is only 3.3 for conservatives.
While one could dwell on the various small changes and group differences over time in
Figure 1 and Table 1, the large HERI samples reveals the counter-intuitive findings faculty are
increasingly happy be in the academy despite all of the pressures and political charged
environments in which they work and that tenure is not as important a factor for conservative
happiness as many believed. Shields and Dunn (2016) go to great lengths to discuss the fears and
concerns with revealing one’s political identity before tenure and the associated stigmas (83),
these data make it clear that job satisfaction is practically identical for conservatives regardless
of tenure status and that those who are happy or want to “Definitely” become a professor again
have increased by 50 percent over the past 25 years. Where tenure status does appear to matter is
for those on the left which only saw a 20 percent increase in satisfaction on average for tenured
and untenured faculty and whose untenured faculty are far less satisfied compared to their
tenured counterparts. In short, conservative in academia are more happy than their liberal peers
and tenure has no real effect on levels of happiness whereas that variable is far more potent for
those on the left.
Where are Conservative Professors Today? Institutional Form
An important and related question to job satisfaction that can be explicitly addressed in the
HERI data is where are those small numbers of conservative professors in the academy today. As
already noted, many observers argue that there are some departments which are “unsafe spaces”
for right-wing thinkers,” (Shields and Dunn 2016b) and that many right of center thinkers work
at lower ranked institutions (Rothman, Lichter, and Nevitee 2005) and that is simply harder for
work that has conservative underpinnings to be published. (Ceci, Peters, and Plotkin 1985;
Phillips 2016) Given these often cited concerns, it is valuable to empirically verify the veracity
of the faculty placement claims and the HERI data enables colleges to be examined by a variety
of types – such as public universities, religious non-Catholic colleges, and non-sectarian private
liberal arts colleges – and this is all based on well-established data from the Integrated
Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS). Further, the HERI data allows for a selectivity
ranking from very low to very high based on the decades old Cooperative Institutional Research
Program based at the UCLA Graduate School of Education scheme which calculates selectivity
based on median SAT verbal and math scores and/or ACT composite scores of the entering class
as reported to IPEDS. (HERI 2016) These markers facilitate longitudinal comparison and actual
testing of these varied claims about conservatives in academia and there does appear to be some
veracity to the notion that conservatives are under-placed in elite institutions compared to their
liberal peers.
Table 2. About Here
Thus, Table 2 examines the distribution of conservatives by both university type and
selectivity and does so at two moments in time over the past 25 years which clearly reveals
where the aggregate conservative declines in Figure 1 are most pronounced. The first finding that
emerges is that none of the 6 college types in the HERI data saw any real gains in the numbers of
conservative faculty over the past 25 years but saw declines or relative parity in the percentage of
right of center faculty on campus. Low and medium ranked private colleges saw the largest
decline in conservative faculty with a drop of 13 points compared to the average decline across
all institutional types which was about 5 points. The larger change was the substantial growth on
the liberal side where all types of schoolw saw notable gains with low ranked private colleges
leading the pack with almost 26 point growth in the number of liberal professors on campus and
overall mean of 13 points across all types of schools. Given the fact that there was not a huge
general drop in conservatives on campuses from 1989 through 2014, it is clear that most of the
liberal uptick actually came at the expense of the moderate identifiers who are now identifying as
liberal. This, like Figure 1, runs against the national trend of over the same time period which
shows remarkable ideological stability among the American polity. (Saad 2016)
The second notable finding to emerge from Table 2 is the fact that the distribution of
conservative and liberal professors is anything but uniform across college types. Private colleges
and public universities only average about 8.6% of their faculties in 2010 and 2014 being
conservative and this is about half the number of conservatives found in private universities and
public colleges which is closer to 15%. Unsurprisingly, religious non-Catholic colleges have the
largest number of conservative professors at 22% of their faculty given the more traditional and
religious leanings of such schools. Liberals, on the other hand, dominate the ideological
preferences across all types of schools and one is more likely to find a centrist or conservative at
a private university with 58% being liberal identifiers compared to small liberal arts colleges
which are 70% liberal in 2014. Jumping back 25 years, private colleges were at the 50 percent
mark for liberal identifiers and this jumped 40% to the 70 percent liberal mark in 2014 compared
to private universities which only saw a 16% increase, for instance. So, the data on ideological
change is anything but consistent from one college to another. Sufficed to say, Table 2 makes it
unambiguously clear that conservatives are on the decline while liberals are on the rise as was
also revealed in Figure 1.
A directly related and third finding in Table 2 which speaks to the issue of faculty
distribution is the fact that these data confirm the aforementioned studies which show that there
are indeed fewer conservative faculty as colleges and universities become more selective. While
the data in no way allows me to look at individual records of faculty or departmental norms,
what becomes evident is the relative number of conservative faculty in lower ranked schools is
indeed higher than those who are in better ranked programs though the strength of the finding
has diminished in recent years. Looking at the figures from 1989 and 1992, there were
substantial differences between high ranked and lower ranked schools in terms of the number of
conservative faculty but those differences shrank over the 25 year period. There was a 13 point
difference between high and low ranked private colleges in 1989 in terms of conservative faculty
identifiers, for instance, and that difference shrank to 5 points by 2014. In contrast, public
universities saw a high/low difference of 9.2 points in 1989 and that figure narrowed to 2 points
by 2014 for conservative professors. So while the magnitude of change over the 25 years differs
a bit based on the type of institution being examined, lower ranked schools continue to have
fewer numbers of conservative faculty compared to the higher ranked schools. A cognate,
inverse finding is also present in Table 2 for liberal faculty as well though the trend is somewhat
messy as the order of magnitude by each type of school differs from 5 points to as many as 20
points. Nonetheless, the more selective the school, the greater number of liberal identifying
professors are working and teaching in that institution.
Given the varied findings regarding ideology by college and university type in Table 3 and
the fact that these institutions have vastly different teaching and research cultures, expectations
for tenure and community engagement, and generally differing philosophies about mission and
impact, it is valuable to assess once again if those on the right fit into the paradigm of feeling like
a beleaguered minority. Accordingly, Table 3 presents survey response data from the wanting to
remain a college professor item found in Tables 1 and 2 along with a new question which asks
respondents, “If you were to begin your career again, would you: Still want to come to this
institution?” and offers the same 5-point response scale as wanting to remain a college professor.
The “definitely yes” responses are plotted by institutional type and satisfaction is fairly low
across with the board at 39% strongly wanting to still teach at their institution with only those
faculty teaching a private universities and, presumably with better salaries, teaching loads, and
research support being the outlier at 49% in support.
Table 3. About Here
Breaking down the two career satisfaction items by ideology reveals a similar effect to what
I already found in the general satisfaction items – conservatives are actually more satisfied and
content then their liberal and centrist counterparts in their faculty positions. Looking at the
responses toward wanting to stay at one’s current institution broken down by ideology, the
narrative of conservatives are notably more optimistic being on average 12 points more pleased
with their current institutional than their liberal counterparts. Conservatives are more satisfied in
all 6 cases and the difference is the smallest among those teaching in private, liberal arts
institutions with only 4 point difference. Moreover, if one examines the strongly supportive
responses to wanting to remain a college professor in 1992-1995 and then 2010-2014 across each
of the six types of colleges and universities, there is a generalized increase in happiness over the
past 25 years with 49% saying that “Definitely Yes” in 1992-1995 and moving up to 63% by
2010-2014. There was parity among the ideological groups in 1992-1995 and by 2010-2014,
parity remained for the most part with conservative identifiers being a few points happier than
their liberal counterparts.
Table 4. About Here
Finally, when thinking about where conservative faculty reside within the academy, the
HERI data offers a chance to expand beyond the Ladd and Lipset (1975) and Shields and Dunn
(2016a) narrow examination of social science departments. The HERI data queries respondents
about which department their terminal degree was awarded and then aggregates that information
into 15 groupings to allow for comparison over time. Table 4 organizes this data into two key
areas with the first being the percentage of each group of fields that is conservative in 1989 and
then 2014. Unsurprisingly, in 2014, those faculty who are in fields that are often more
quantitative and technical in nature have the largest number of conservative identifiers with
business, engineering, health, and health all having more than 20% of its faculty identifying as
right of center. Education may appear to be an outlier but breaking it down further reveals that it
is faculty in administration, assessment and design, and elementary education are those with the
greatest number of conservatives compared to the much lower who are in secondary education,
bilingual education, and early childhood education. The social sciences, history, the humanities,
English and the arts are all quite low with fewer than 10 percent of their faculty identifying at
conservative by 2014. Those topmost four areas in 2014 saw little change in terms of numbers of
conservative identifiers whereas the other 11 other areas of teaching and research witnessed
notable declines with some – like history and politics at 8% – already so low that much of a drop
was not likely to happen much further.
While quite a bit more could be discussed about academic fields, the purpose here is to
observe how conservatives view themselves within in the larger academy and Table 4 makes it
apparent, as with the earlier Figure 2 and Table 3, that the desire has increased to continue being
college faculty from 1989 through 2014. In 1989, except for English and a 12.5 point difference,
there was parity between liberals and conservatives in the 15 fields and faculty in some fields
such as math and statistics and the social sciences were marginally happier to return to that field
compared to health related fields. Decades later, overall satisfaction jumped for both liberals and
conservatives on average 16 points from 44 for all faculty in 1989 to 60 in 2014 and there was
less parity in many fields compared to 1989. 7 fields (Engineering, Health, Education, Physical
Sciences, Fine Arts, Education, and English) showed no difference in terms of satisfaction levels
and two fields - the biological sciences and agricultural sciences saw both liberal and
conservative faculty satisfaction increase – had liberals with small leads in satisfaction over
conservatives. The remaining six fields – which include the very politically charged and liberally
dominated social sciences, humanities, and history and politics – saw increased across the board
with conservative faculty being far more satisfied then their liberal counterparts. In the
humanities, conservatives were 12 points higher and were 11 points higher in history and
political science. Putting these facts together, even when conservative faculty comprise small
numbers in politically charged departments, the empirical data tell a different story than many
qualitative accounts for it appears that conservative faculty are happy and thriving and not
suffering given that they would “definitely” return to their jobs if they had the chance to make a
different set of choices.
Teaching and the Personal Objectives of Faculty Compared
Examining the political ideologies of faculty and looking at how those beliefs intersect with
departmental affiliation and the question of would faculty definitely return to their position if
they could make a different career decision as a measure of a relative satisfaction reveals very
little in terms of any systemic differences between those faculty on the right compared to the left.
However, as already noted, numerous accounts in popular and academic literature highlight the
difficulties for right leaning faculty, so knowing about other measures which capture faculty
outlooks and approaches to life on campus could be valuable. Fortunately, the HERI data queries
college and university faculty about their approaches to teaching and students, their professional
goals, and personal aspirations. A number of key differences do emerge along ideological lines
though these differences appear to be on issues that do not generally pertain to political actions
or community behaviors and the teaching approaches and personal outlooks of faculty on the left
and the right are, once again, not particularly different.
Table 5. About Here
Table 5 presents the personal and professional objectives of the professoriate by ideology
and I have broken the various items down into three distinct groupings: personal, professional,
and quasi-personal for those items which overlap the personal and professional worlds like being
a community leader. For each item, HERI asked how important was this objective and offered 4
choices - not important, somewhat important, very important, and essential – and Table 5
collapses the top two affirmative for merged 2010 and 2014 data. All together 18 items were
asked and there some areas of tremendous agreement and others which reveal deep divides. With
respect to areas of agreement, when looking at professional objectives there is ideological
uniformity in terms of wanting to have an impact on their respective field and a desire to be a
good teacher and mentor to students. Liberals are, however, twice more likely to believe that
research is more important than conservatives and this could fit into the Shields and Dunn (2016)
argument which notes that some believe that conservative ideologies are fundamentally less
inquisitive and not as concerned with research or could reflect the reality that conservatives are
aware that their research may be harder to publish generally. Given the fact that two-thirds of
both liberals and conservatives want to be authorities in their fields, realizing the difficulty of
publishing right of center work may be what is informing the gap in research expectations.
Turning to the personal and quasi-personal items in Table 5, conservatives and liberals
diverge on quite a few items but they do agree in the same proportions on the import of
developing a meaningful life philosophy, helping others, participating in community actions,
making a contribution to science, and influencing social values. Unsurprisingly, there are large
differences on some items like “Integrating Spirituality to Life” where 82.4% of conservatives
strongly believe that is important while only a third of liberals – who are often far more agnostic
– agree as well. Similar effects are present for items like the promotion of racial understanding
where three quarters of liberals support that idea compared to half of conservatives and the
adoption of green practices to help the environment where two-thirds of liberals are in support of
that idea compared to only one-third of conservatives.
Four items that are of particular note in Table 5 that pertain to politics and ideology and the
first and second are that while there liberals are more concerned with “influencing the political
structure” (27.1 to 15.2 for liberals compared to conservatives) and conservatives are slightly
more interested in “becoming community leaders,” (22.6 to 17.5 for conservatives to liberals).
But I should note that even with these differences between liberal and conservatives, less than a
quarter of college faculty believe that these are very important or essential quasi-professional
goals. Faculty are more interested in keeping up to date with political affairs, the third item, with
roughly half of conservatives and two-thirds of liberals supporting that statement. Thus faculty
responses seem to suggest that being aware is an important quasi-professional goal, being
engaged in change and the community on the ground are two very different goals entirely and
real action is far less important goal. The forth item to note is the “becoming well off financially”
question because observers like Gross (2016) and Golshan (2016) note that conservatives tend to
be more driven by economic considerations and the HERI data suggest that that conservatives
are slightly more inclined to support that goal with a third of right leaning professors stating that
becoming well-off financially is an important goal compared to a quarter of left of center
professors. Nonetheless, these are not large numbers and financial goals are not particularly
salient compared to the helping others in difficulties, for instance, where three-quarters of both
liberals and conservatives said that was an essential goal. In short, the data in Table 5 make the
case that faculty on both extremes want to live meaningful lives, help others, and be well
regarded in terms of mentorship and how there are viewed authoritatively within the academy.
Community engagement and political influence is clearly important for some, but certainly not
for the majority of faculty on the left or the right.
Lastly, HERI has asked college and university faculty about their approaches to teaching
and instruction and it would be reasonable to find differences in classroom material and structure
of classes given the often cited differences in outlook and disposition of liberals and
conservatives. (Haidt 2013, Greene 2014, Hibbing, Smith, Alford 2013; Tuschman; Shenkman)
As an example, Weiler (2016) expands on the important work of Hetherington and Weiler (2009)
and makes it clear that many on the right can be thought of and see the world as “authoritarians”
who tend to prize order, traditional trappings of America’s existing social fabric and tend to
project “strength in the most straightforward, uncompromising way possible.” Accordingly, one
would expect to see real ideological differences in what sort of material is being taught –
traditional disciplinary work vs progressive, interdisciplinary work – and how it is taught –
traditional lecturing compared to student-guided learning which is prominent in many liberal arts
I have parsed the teaching and classroom information based on ideology in Table 6 and the
results are, one again, surprising as the differences between the left and the right are not large
and those on the right actually are slightly more likely to be using more progressive modes of
teaching in the classroom as well. In terms of course types taught, roughly 17 percent of both
liberals and conservatives have taught service learning courses but this is hardly large proportion
of faculty. Equal numbers of liberals and conservative faculty have “collaborated with the local
community in research/teaching” with conservatives having a slight edge 47.8 to 43.5 which
suggests that right of center scholars are not as ivory tower as many would believe. Looking at
ethnic studies and gender studies, liberals are far more likely to teach in these areas and assign
readings which touch on these approaches but in no case are these lenses of study dominant in
classrooms whatsoever. Almost half of all liberals have taught an interdisciplinary course
compared to roughly a third of conservatives and this does fit the traditional idea that liberals are
more open to newer modes of thinking compared to more traditional departmental approaches
but the picture presented here with the data makes it clear that conservatives are not that far
Table 6. About Here
Looking at modes of thinking as they pertain to teaching, HERI offered faculty a number of
approaches to modes of instruction in the classroom and offered respondents a choice from four
options: none, some, most or all. I have collapsed “most” and “all” categories and the differences
between liberal and conservative faculty are minimal – all faculty use classroom discussion,
cooperative learning, field studies, group projects, community service, and attempt to bring real-
life problems into the classroom with conservative professors being far more likely to teach that
way – 72.5 to 56.4 – compared to liberals. The average difference between the 10 modes of
instruction was roughly 5 points and the largest difference after the “real world situation” item
being “lecturing” but that was only the case with 54% of conservative faculty regularly lecturing
compared to 45% of liberals doing the same. These figures once again strongly demonstrate that
conservatives are very much not out of the norm on college and university campuses in terms of
approaches to teaching because the traditional modes of instruction are not dominant for
conservatives who have, in reality, adopted and use in the same proportion the progressive,
community oriented and student driven-learning methods that are the hallmark for many left of
center faculty today.
Discussion and Conclusion
While the data and measures in the UCLA HERI data set is far from perfect, the survey
work on tens of thousands of faculty over 25 years makes a few points unambiguously clear
about the state of the professoriate in 2014. First, after adding in the Carnegie Foundation
surveys, the ideological distribution over the past 45 years has skewed far to the left while
college freshman and the American polity as a whole has remained unchanged. A college
professor today is likely to be more liberal than a typical American by a factor of 8 and 3 times
more than an incoming college freshman. In 1969, college professors were about two and a half
times more liberal than the typical American and marginally more liberal then the freshmen that
they would teach. However, there has been a 40% increase liberals on campuses today and
barely ten percent of all college faculty are now identifying as conservative which is down from
30 percent 45 years ago. This decline has not been uniform by school type and department either.
Public colleges along with Catholic and religious schools do have marginally higher numbers of
conservatives on campus and more selective institutions have lower numbers of conservatives
compared to less selections schools regardless of type. Departments are not equal either with
humanistic, artistic, and social science foci are notably more liberal than engineering, business,
and health related fields.
The second major finding is that despite the ideological changes in the composition of the
faculty at large, conservative faculty are overwhelmingly pleased with their choice to become
college professors and many would happily make their career choice once again. Despite the
narratives of “passing as liberal” or feeling like an oppressed minority, when conservative
faculty were asked “Still want to be a college professor?” the percentage responding “Definitely
yes” has grown from the high 40percent range to the mid 60 percent range for conservatives
representing a 40 percent increase while liberals have grown from a low 40 percent range to a
high 50 percent range and have increased 30 percent in satisfaction. The same upward decades
long trends led by conservatives emerge when tenure is considered as well as when the data is
examined by college and university type and department. Of course, asking faculty about
wanting to remain a college professor is a limited measure and many more narrow and specific
questions need to be fielded asking about topics like on the job discrimination and professional
limitations as they pertain to promotion and advancement. However, I have looked at the
responses to the item that are “Definitely yes” which is a strong, positive affirmation as opposed
to the choice that professors could offer being “probably yes” if they were indeed struggling and
uncomfortable about their choices. Clearly, conservatives are not as unhappy as many reports
would suggest based on this long-term measure.
A third and final set of finding emerge from the HERI data regarding the attitudes and
teaching styles of the professoriate and is that faculty are not that concerned with being political
and classroom behaviors are remarkably similar. Despite regular concerns about the bias of
faculty (Gross 2013: 5) and how that impacts college campuses, only minorities of faculty are
interested influencing the political structure and becoming a political leader. Moreover, less than
a third of liberals and conservatives see it as an important or essential goal to participate in
community action. In fact, these same professors are much more inward looking for over 80
percent of both groups are actually concerned with developing a meaningful philosophy of life
and that fits into the provocative work of Smith, Mayer and Fritschler (2010). Moreover, liberal
and conservative faculty have almost identical teaching styles and conservatives are as likely to
cultivate student interest and inquiry to drive learning and use discussions coupled with field
work as their liberal counterparts. The HERI survey does reveal that liberals do use more
materials that engages with questions of race, ethnicity, and gender – but conservative approach
to teaching is not lecturing at the expense of more progressive teaching and engagement with
students whatsoever.
While the metrics and measures available in the HERI surveys are incomplete and imprecise
to a degree, these three sets of findings are quite powerful and elevates the discussion of the
academy beyond the small scale, one-off surveys of faculty and their politics and provides
empirical color to supplement the important qualitative work that has been conducted to
understand members of the academy to date. Moreover, I do not attempt to explain why
professors are liberal, why certain types of scholars enter and remain in academia, or why these
large shifts have occurred and numerous other scholars have taken on that question as others
have taken on these qustions. (Stevens 2009; Arum and Roksa 2010; Gross 2013; Deresiewicz,
William. 2015; Shields and Dunn 2016) These data do not attempt to break down ideology
beyond a 5-point scale and expand on the various nuances of identification politics and
partisanship (Fiorina and Abrams 2009) and I make no claim that the aforementioned findings
are exhaustive or beyond reproach. However, there is a pronounced change evident in terms of
faculty ideology that does not appear in the electorate (Abrams and Fiorina 2012) and
conservative professors appear to be as satisfied with their career choices as much as liberal
faculty and these conclusions come from huge, robust samples of faculty. More optimistic
findings regarding conservative faculty and their outlook on campus directly speaks in
opposition to countless stories of anti-conservative professor bias and serious concerns about
regular discrimination against conservative faculty.
The question of why conservative faculty are not as frustrated as it may appear and want to
flee academia requires more study both quantitatively and qualitatively. Shields and Dunn (2016)
offer some answers including the notion that the press has overstates its very politicization. I
believe another line of thinking may explain the relative levels of content beyond the notion that
the academy is a home for deliberation and discovery and that explanation can be derived from
social identification theory. (Tajfel 1974; Tajfel and Turner 1979; 1986)
In its most simple form, social identification theory argues that groups such as families,
classes, teams, are sources of esteem and pride and that can lead to a sense of belonging in a
complex and often divisive world. This basic idea spawned massive multi-disciplinary research
programs that have examined in and out-group bias and have demonstrated that group settings
have the capacity to narrow priorities, create dissonance for outgroup perspectives and differing
world-views, and reframe priorities (Triandis and Trafimow 2001; Turner and Reynolds 2010;
Ellemers and Barreto 2001) and politics and ideology have been shown to play a large role in
shaping outlooks (Napier and Jost 2008; Jost, Hennes and Lavine 2013; Nam, Jost, and Van
Bavel 2013) Experimental work by Dunham and Rand (2016) which looked at political turmoil
argue that being in a smaller, particular group feels quite different and personally meaningful
when one compares him or herself to the larger, other outgroup. There is no reason, then, to
not think that conservative faculty see themselves as minorities in opposition to a growing and
more powerful liberal majority. The tenants of conservative ideology and being part of this
smaller and non-dominant group helps shape career goals, personal outlooks, and informs a
worldview that may lead to quite a bit of personal happiness and comfort as faculty with an
“us” vs “them” outlook that can be comforting to many. The HERI data did reveal some
differences in priorities toward teaching over research and notions toward spirituality
compared to liberal faculty and this may be why conservative faculty state that they enjoy
being college and universities professors as rates often higher than their liberal counterparts.
The HERI survey data cannot probe any of these questions more deeply, but that question
needs to be examined further in future.
Regardless of the rationale for why conservatives are generally satisfied in their positions
as members of the academy, the HERI data makes a strong and robust case that empirical
evidence can introduce additional facts and data into the discussion about the state of
conservative professors on college and university campuses. The lack of viewpoint diversity
among faculty may be a real problem and there are regular stories of discrimination and bias
based on political and ideological viewpoints that limit free thinking, promotion, and dialogue
regularly. However, we should be careful not to miss the forest for the trees and recognize
that most conservatives are quite satisfied with being members of the academy in all of its
various forms and would happily stay even if they could being their career once again.
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Table 1. Definitely Wanting to Remain a College Professor: By Tenure Status
Tenured Faculty Ideology Un-Tenured Faculty Ideology
Liberal Centrist Conservative Liberal Centrist Conservative
1989 48.2 44.3 45.6 39.8 44.2 41.1
1992 52.3 48.4 50.3 45.9 44.1 44.5
1995 52.9 45.8 48.3 43.4 42.9 45.4
1998 50.8 48.2 48.5 40.8 42.3 44.7
2001 51.8 48.1 48.1 44.4 47.7 46.0
2004 59.4 58.7 57.1 50.8 52.0 53.0
2007 67.3 64.0 64.2 57.7 61.1 64.3
2010 65.4 63.7 60.1 54.8 63.4 62.9
2014 62.4 61.1 65.0 49.2 55.3 61.3
Source: HERI
Table 2. Ideological Distribution, by Selectivity of Institution
Faculty Conservative
Faculty Liberal
Faculty Liberal
1989-1992 2010-2014 1989-1992 2010-2014
Public Universities: Low/Medium 17.5 9.7 45.9 62.6
Public Universities: High/Very High 8.3 7.7 60.3 68.3
Private Universities: Low/Medium 24.7 18.3 40.6 50.5
Private Universities: High/Very High 10.5 11.7 59.7 65.0
Public Colleges: Low/Medium 21.2 16.9 40.3 55.2
Public Colleges: High/Very High 20.6 13.3 43.6 60.5
Private Colleges: Low/Medium 23.8 10.9 39.5 65.3
Private Colleges: High/Very High 10.7 6.0 61.2 74.1
Catholic: Low/Medium 15.6 15.6 44.7 51.2
Catholic: High/Very High 15.8 10.6 47.0 62.5
Other Religious: Low/Medium 27.5 29.7 35.4 40.1
Other Religious: High/Very High 21.2 14.0 47.7 59.0
Mean 18.1 6.12 47.16 8.71
SD 13.7 6.21 59.53 9.14
Source: HERI
Table 3. Definitely Wanting to Remain a College Professor: Institutional Type
Universities Private
Universities Public 4
Private 4
Schools Other
Still Want to Come to
Liberal Faculty 28.6 41.8 28.1 33.6 31.3 32.8
Centrist Faculty 31.9 47.8 33.9 35.1 37.8 38.1
Conservative Faculty 37.3 58.8 37.2 37.9 46.3 47.8
Want Remain a College Prof
Liberal Faculty 45.6 51.7 47.5 49.1 53.0 50.6
Centrist Faculty 40.4 52.5 44.0 47.5 51.2 49.0
Conservative Faculty 42.2 54.0 45.2 51.0 51.5 54.1
Liberal Faculty 58.1 60.2 61.8 58.5 63.3 65.0
Centrist Faculty 58.9 67.1 61.2 59.6 65.7 64.1
Conservative Faculty 55.2 69.2 61.2 65.1 64.4 65.0
Source: HERI
Table 4. Conservative Faculty by Field
Field % Conservative
Faculty % Definitely Wanting to Remain a College
Faculty Conservative
Faculty Liberal
Faculty Conservative
1989 2014 1989 1989 2014 2014
Business 36.2 34.3 42.5 47.7 63.0 72.2
Engineering 29.4 26.8 40.3 39.1 58.2 60.3
Health Related 22.5 25.0 33.7 36.1 56.3 56.1
Education 23.5 21.3 44.4 46.6 52.3 54.2
Other Technical 29.7 17.7 41.4 38.9 62.5 67.2
Math and Stats 20.6 14.4 52.9 49.0 65.2 75.7
Physical Sciences 18.8 13.7 47.4 46.9 63.4 66.8
Other Non-Technical 23.8 11.8 35.5 35.6 52.0 65.3
Agriculture or Forestry 30.0 11.6 34.8 38.4 36.8 32.2
History and Political Science 8.1 8.9 55.2 55.2 65.0 75.5
Fine Arts 10.9 8.7 38.0 45.3 55.4 58.1
Humanities 9.9 8.4 48.7 53.7 60.6 73.0
Social Sciences 10.3 7.9 47.6 50.0 54.1 61.1
Biological Sciences 15.1 6.9 45.8 46.5 57.5 49.7
English 7.2 4.6 47.6 35.1 60.5 60.7
Mean -- -- 43.72 44.27 57.52 61.87
Source: HERI
Table 5. The Personal and Professional Objectives of College Faculty
% Very Important and Essential, 2010-2014 Liberal
Faculty Conservative
Faculty Difference
Very Important and Essential: Research 51.0 29.7 21.30
Very Important and Essential: Teaching 70.3 79.7 9.40
Very Important and Essential: Service 17.1 22.2 5.10
Become Authority in Field 68.9 67.5 1.40
Mentoring the Next Generation of Students 77.2 76.1 1.10
Making a Contribution to Science 40.7 38.6 2.10
Influencing the Political Structure 27.1 15.2 11.90
Influencing Social Values 51.3 46.0 5.30
Keeping Up to Date with Political Affairs 66.6 50.8 15.80
Becoming a Community Leader 17.5 22.6 5.10
Participating in Community Action 27.8 29.0 1.20
Help promote racial understanding 78.1 54.7 23.40
Becoming Well Off Financially 21.9 34.4 12.50
Helping Others in Difficulty 71.5 76.3 4.80
Integrating Spirituality to Life 36.6 82.4 45.80
Develop Meaningful of Philosophy of Life 81.7 86.1 4.40
Adopting Green Practices to Help Environment 63.7 31.5 32.20
Source: HERI
Table 6. Liberal and Conservative Approaches to Teaching
Faculty Conservative
Faculty Difference
10-14 10-14
% Affirmative
Taught an interdisciplinary course 48.7 33.0 15.70
Taught an ethnic studies course 13.6 5.0 8.60
Taught a women's studies course 9.7 1.6 8.10
Taught a service learning course 17.3 17.9 .60
Collaborated with the local community in research/teaching 43.5 47.8 4.30
Assigned readings on racial and ethnic issues 32.9 11.0 21.90
Assigned readings on women and gender issues 29.0 6.4 22.60
Instructional Method: (Most and All)
Class discussions 84.3 79.1 5.20
Cooperative learning (small groups) 59.1 57.0 2.10
Experiential learning/Field studies 25.3 31.2 5.90
Group projects 35.1 41.4 6.30
Extensive lecturing 44.6 54.1 9.50
Student-selected topics for course content 23.5 17.9 5.60
Reflective writing/journaling 21.3 19.8 1.50
Community service as part of coursework 6.2 9.7 3.50
Using real-life problems 56.4 72.5 16.10
Using student inquiry to drive learning 49.5 47.9 1.60
Source: HERI
Figure 1. The Ideology of the American Professoriate: 1969 - 2014
Source: HERI, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Gallup Organization.
Figure 2. Still want to be a college professor? Definitely Yes
Source: HERI
... That the preponderance of faculty is liberal on many college campuses is not in doubt. As shown by Abrams (2016), the proportion of faculty at many elite universities leans heavily to the political left, with liberal faculty outnumbering conservative faculty six to one (Jaschik 2016). Some believe that the preponderance of liberal faculty is producing a campus climate that is hostile to ideas not shared by liberals, such as those held by conservative, libertarian, and religious people (Roth 2017). ...
... RLACs are more intellectually diverse because of the higher representation of conservatives at these colleges compared to other universities. Drawing on survey data from the Higher Education Research Institution, Abrams (2016) showed that non-Catholic, religious universities with lower levels of selectivity in admissions had the highest percentage of conservative faculty (29.7%) for 2010-2014 (Abrams 2016, table 2). This percentage was notably higher than public universities with lower levels of selectivity in admissions (16.7%), which had the second largest percentage of conservative faculty. ...
... This percentage was notably higher than public universities with lower levels of selectivity in admissions (16.7%), which had the second largest percentage of conservative faculty. Although Abrams (2016) presented evidence that non-Catholic religious universities had the highest percentage of conservative faculty, the largest percentage of faculty at these institutions still identified as liberal (40.1%). In other words, there is evidence of a greater balance between different political viewpoints at these institutions. ...
Intellectual Diversity at Religious Colleges - Josiah F. Marineau, Shawn Williams
... In fact, Mary's (2001) is the most recent study to specifically address political ideology of social work faculty and finds that faculty support a social reform perspective for social policy and overwhelmingly disagreed that effective social work requires social workers to remain non-partisan. Although there is limited data regarding social work faculty's political leanings, the literature related to political ideology and affiliation among all academics find that academics increasingly lean left (Abrams, 2016;Langbert et al., 2016). However, the limited and dated research specifically regarding the political ideology and political affiliation of social work faculty requires reappraisal to see if the trend among faculty in general is indicative of social work faculty. ...
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Social work faculty have an ethical imperative to engage in policy and political practice. While the literature indicates that a progressive-liberal tradition exists within social work, few studies have specifically looked at faculty political inclination and even less at their social welfare policy preferences. This descriptive study used an online survey to look at the party affiliation and political ideology of United States (U.S.) based social work faculty and the influence that these have on the social welfare policies faculty prefer. The study finds that U.S. based social work faculty are affiliated with the Democratic party (78.1%) and on the liberal side of the political continuum (86.4%). Descriptive statistics show that, overall, the social policy preferences of American social work faculty reflect the progressive paradigm more than the restrictive paradigm (M = 6.06, SD = 1.23 for progressive items and M = 2.63, SD = 1.54 for restrictive items). Multivariate regression analysis results indicate that political ideology is the strongest predictor of social welfare policy preferences among study participants (β = .307, p < .01). The implications of these findings for social work education, including the alignment of a progressive ideology with social work values and ethics, are discussed. Keywords: Political ideology, social work values, social work faculty, policy preferences, pedagogy
In spite of soaring tuition costs, more and more students go to college every year. A bachelor’s degree is now required for entry into a growing number of professions. And some parents begin planning for the expense of sending their kids to college when they’re born. Almost everyone strives to go, but almost no one asks the fundamental question posed by Academically Adrift: are undergraduates really learning anything once they get there? For a large proportion of students, Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa’s answer to that question is a definitive no. Their extensive research draws on survey responses, transcript data, and, for the first time, the state-of-the-art Collegiate Learning Assessment, a standardized test administered to students in their first semester and then again at the end of their second year. According to their analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at twenty-four institutions, 45 percent of these students demonstrate no significant improvement in a range of skills—including critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing—during their first two years of college. As troubling as their findings are, Arum and Roksa argue that for many faculty and administrators they will come as no surprise—instead, they are the expected result of a student body distracted by socializing or working and an institutional culture that puts undergraduate learning close to the bottom of the priority list. Academically Adrift holds sobering lessons for students, faculty, administrators, policy makers, and parents—all of whom are implicated in promoting or at least ignoring contemporary campus culture. Higher education faces crises on a number of fronts, but Arum and Roksa’s report that colleges are failing at their most basic mission will demand the attention of us all.
There are few conservatives and libertarians in legal academia. Why? Three explanations are usually provided: the Brainpower, Interest, and Greed Hypotheses. Alternatively, it could be because of Discrimination. This paper explores these possibilities by looking at citation and publication rates by law professors at the 16 highest-ranked law schools in the country. Using regression analysis, propensity score matching, propensity score reweighting, nearest neighbor matching, and coarsened exact matching, this paper finds that after taking into account traditional correlates of scholarly ability, conservative and libertarian law professors are cited more and publish more than their peers. The paper also finds that they tend to have more of the traditional qualifications required of law professors than their peers, with a few exceptions. This paper indicates that, at least in the schools sampled, conservative and libertarian law professors are not few in number because of a lack of scholarly ability or professional qualifications. Further, the patterns do not prove, but are consistent with, a story of discrimination. The downsides to having so few conservatives and libertarians in the legal academy are also briefly explored.
Although politics at the elite level has been polarized for some time, a scholarly controversy has raged over whether ordinary Americans are polarized. This book argues that they are and that the reason is growing polarization of worldviews – what guides people's view of right and wrong and good and evil. These differences in worldview are rooted in what Marc J. Hetherington and Jonathan D. Weiler describe as authoritarianism. They show that differences of opinion concerning the most provocative issues on the contemporary issue agenda – about race, gay marriage, illegal immigration, and the use of force to resolve security problems – reflect differences in individuals’ levels of authoritarianism. This makes authoritarianism an especially compelling explanation of contemporary American politics. Events and strategic political decisions have conspired to make all these considerations more salient. The authors demonstrate that the left and the right have coalesced around these opposing worldviews, which has provided politics with more incandescent hues than before.
Introduction The Meaning of Status for Group Members Affective Responses to Group Status Perceptual Consequences Conclusions and Directions for Future Research References
Comparison of the findings from a 1979 sample of faculty members of the honorific academies and a 1977 national survey of American professors indicates that the former are more liberal politically than the latter, including those at the most distinguished institutions. This result is in line with a body of theory which suggests that intellectual creativity is associated with critical social views, and with earlier research which found that scholarly status among faculty generally is correlated with liberal political orientations. The relationship inverts, however, for questions bearing on the self-interest of academic achievers both within and outside of the university.