Universities Without Ideological Diversity

It’s well known that among college and university faculty, liberals outnumber conservatives. Sam Abrams at Heterodox Academy presents some typical data:

The liberal-conservative ratio among faculty was roughly 2 to 1 in 1995. By 2004 that figure jumped to almost 3 to 1. While seemingly insignificant, that represents a 50% decline in conservative identifiers on campuses. After 2004, the ratio changed even more dramatically and by 2010, was close to 5 to 1 nationally. This shows that political diversity declined rapidly in our nation’s centers for learning and social change.

What’s more surprising is how extreme the difference is in one part of the country: New England. For college and university faculty in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont – the liberal to conservative ratio is above 25 to 1!

In the figure below the liberal to conservative ratio is graphed for faculty in New England and in the rest of the country. The green line at the bottom graphs the ratio in the population at large. Universities everywhere are not as balanced as the general population but New England is like another country.

Do conservative professors face discrimination? Defenders of the universities have argued, sometimes quite cogently (but compare), that professors tend to be more liberal than the general population not because of discrimination but because of factors like education, income, or social class. The universities can hardly be blamed if the people who want to become professors tend to be liberal! But large geographic differences in the ratio of liberals to conservatives suggests that this may not be the full story. Somehow I suspect that conservatives professors would be quite happy to live and work in New England should they be offered jobs in that part of the country.


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