The (Politically) Divided Academy.--

David Bernstein notes a response by Daniel Stein and Charlotta Stern to a recent article in Public Opinion Quarterly: "Is the Academy a Liberal Hegemony? The Political Orientations and Educational Values of Professors," by John F. Zipp and Rudy Fenwick. I have not yet looked at the Stein/Stern response, but I have looked at the Zipp/Fenwick article and I found its rhetoric somewhat odd.

Zipp and Fenwick's first critique of existing studies showing wide disparities in party affiliation among faculty is that one should look at self-reported ideology rather than party, an argument for which they present no persuasive argument.

Zipp and Fenwick's second critique of the existing studies is in part:

Second, these contentions have ignored much better data and research. The most comprehensive study of the political leanings of professors is Ladd and Lipset's (1975) The Divided Academy, which uses data from the 1969 Carnegie survey as well as a smaller follow-up survey done in 1972. . . . Ladd and Lipset note that liberalism varied appreciably by discipline--the social sciences were the most liberal, while engineering and business were dominated by conservatives . . . .

I just consulted Ladd and Lipset's 1975 Divided Academy. Ladd and Lipset do not show that conservatives dominate engineering and business (p. 369).

In 1969:
Electrical engineering is 40% left/liberal, 31% middle, and 31% conservative.
Mechanical engineering is 25% left/liberal, 25% middle, and 50% conservative.
Civil engineering is 22% left/liberal, 40% middle, and 38% conservative.
Business is 31% left/liberal, 29% middle, and 40% conservative.

Having about 60% self-described liberals and middle of the road, and about 40% conservatives in engineering and business in 1969 is not what I would call "conservative dominance," especially given the relatively liberal views on particular issues that the 1969 study found that faculty have. One must also remember that these totals include junior colleges, which (at least in later studies) differ considerably from the 4-year colleges and universities that have been the focus of the debate.

Further, it is odd that Zipp and Fenwick would point to Ladd & Lipset's 1970s writing as evidence against the thesis that "a disproportionate percentage of the faculty is liberal." When Michael Faia (foreshadowing Zipp and Fenwick) wrote an article on the "Myth of the Liberal Professor," Ladd and Lipset sliced and diced Faia in "The Myth of the "Conservative" Professor: A Reply to Michael Faia," Sociology of Education, Vol. 47, No. 2. (Spring, 1974), pp. 203-213. Ladd and lipset point out that the 1969 and 1972 Carnegie data show that professors are much more liberal than the general public, even more on their views on public issues than on their self-described politics.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. The (Politically) Divided Academy.--
  2. Ideology and the Academy--An Empirical Dispute: