What would you say if I told you that the faculty at most colleges and universities, particularly the larger liberal arts schools, is predominantly composed of liberal Democrats? You might find that surprising if you happen to have been living under a rock for the past several decades but otherwise, this is pretty much a dog-bites-man story. But just how bad is the imbalance? Mitchell Langbert at the National Association of Scholars (NAS) recently finished a lengthy research project examining the question and has published the results. No matter how bad you think the level of liberal bias is at most schools, it’s probably worse.
In this article I offer new evidence about something readers of Academic Questions already know: The political registration of full-time, Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges is overwhelmingly Democratic. Indeed, faculty political affiliations at 39 percent of the colleges in my sample are Republican free—having zero Republicans. The political registration in most of the remaining 61 percent, with a few important exceptions, is slightly more than zero percent but nevertheless absurdly skewed against Republican affiliation and in favor of Democratic affiliation. Thus, 78.2 percent of the academic departments in my sample have either zero Republicans, or so few as to make no difference.
My sample of 8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.–holding professors from fifty-one of the sixty-six top ranked liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News 2017 report consists of 5,197, or 59.8 percent, who are registered either Republican or Democrat. The mean Democratic-to-Republican ratio (D:R) across the sample is 10.4:1, but because of an anomaly in the definition of what constitutes a liberal arts college in the U.S. News survey, I include two military colleges, West Point and Annapolis.1 If these are excluded, the D:R ratio is a whopping 12.7:1.
The numbers which include the two military schools should be disregarded. Obviously, there’s going to be a significantly larger percentage of conservatives among those who answer the call to service. And how you define West Point or Annapolis as a “liberal arts school” is something of a mystery to begin with. But as for the rest of the schools, that’s a bigger gap than even I had imagined. Nearly eight out of ten of these colleges either have zero Republicans in their faculty or a number so small as to be statistically insignificant. And even the schools with a measurable number of Republicans still find them being vastly outnumbered.
Sadly, despite the broad swath of the country away from the coasts where conservative views are more dominant, this is one area where Republicans and conservatives have failed to make any inroads. And it’s not a trivial matter. It’s true that many people emerge from four years of college and 100% immersion in liberal doctrine with a decidedly leftward worldview, but later go on to slowly grow more conservative. This usually happens when they wind up having to begin paying their own bills (and taxes), are faced with raising children or try to purchase a home. But that process can take decades and obviously they don’t all make the journey.
Allowing nearly all of the schools to be conducting this sort of liberal indoctrination program and supporting an agenda where any opposing views are shouted down leaves us with one generation after another of young workers – and voters – who are still tilted in the direction of socialism. It’s a dangerous situation and flies in the face of what true education should be about. Spirited debate and exposure to both sides of each fundamental question would produce a more thoughtful generation of graduates. How we make any inroads in that area remains a mystery as long as the numbers are as horrid as Langbert found in his analysis.