Study: Republicans rare among social scientists

The ranks of university professors teaching in social sciences and humanities are dominated by Democrats, according to a new survey by Santa Clara University associate economics professor Daniel Klein.

Klein surveyed academics in anthropology, economics, history, philosophy, political science and sociology, asking them about the predominant political affiliation of candidates they have supported at the polls over the last decade.

An independent survey controller mailed out 5,486 surveys, and 1,686 were completed and returned. The results of the survey indicated uneven ratios of Democrats to Republicans in every one of the six fields. Overall, the social sciences and humanities posted a ratio of 7-to-1 in favor of the Democratic party, according to the study. The most lopsided field was anthropology, with Democrats leading by a ratio of 30-to-1. Economics and political science made up the most balanced fields, with Democrat-to-Republican ratios of 3-to-1 and 7-to-1, respectively. The study also reported that, in universities dominated by one political party, minority voices said they often felt “muffled and fearful.”

“Dr. Klein’s study has drawn well-deserved attention to the lack of intellectual and political diversity in academia, a problem that urgently needs addressing,” said Sara Dogan, the national coordinating director of Students for Academic Freedom, a national coalition of student organizations with the goal of ending political indoctrination at universities.

The group is pushing for an “Academic Bill of Rights,” a common university policy ensuring that “no political, ideological or religious orthodoxy will be imposed on professors and researchers through the hiring or tenure or termination process.” Congress passed a nonbinding resolution backing the bill in the current proposal for the Higher Education Renewal Act, an omnibus bill governing most aspects of the federal government’s involvement in higher education.

“We do believe the vast disparity between Democrats and Republicans is due primarily to the blacklisting of conservative applicants by hiring and tenure committees,” Dogan said. “Our organization encourages colleges and universities to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights to guarantee that students’ academic freedoms will be preserved and that partisan politics will not play a role in university hiring decisions or in the classroom.”

The relative absence of conservatives in academia not only hinders academic freedom but also affects the quality of education that students get, according to Dogan.

“Some professors do make every effort to have ideological diversity, but many do not,” said Patrick Todd, chair of the UCSD College Republicans. “Some professors object to being forced to present ideologies that they don’t personally believe in.”

However, the American Association of University Professors — an opponent of the proposed Academic Bill of Rights — has argued that the political affiliation of faculty does little to prevent academic freedom or lower the quality of student education.

“The views of faculty members are far more likely to be influenced by their years of study, research, writing and teaching in their field than by any political party line,” AAUP Director of Public Policy and Communications Ruth Flower said.

Although the AAUP’s mission is to preserve academic freedom, it doesn’t believe that the predominance of Democrats limits this freedom as long as faculty members are autonomous and self-governing, according to Flower.

“I would hope that faculty, whatever their political persuasions, would teach students, above all, how to think critically,” UCSD sociology professor Rebecca Klatch said. “I think most faculty here are interested in this mission, whatever their own political values might be.”

According to Klein’s study, Democratic sociology professors outnumbered their Republican colleagues 28-to-1, making it the field with the second most uneven ratio.

“Sociologists are not as diverse, politically, as the general public, but I don’t think that means that we don’t have diverse perspectives,” UCSD sociology professor Amy Binder said. “One of the key foundations for being a sociologist is to be able to collect empirical data and to make sense of that data, whether you agree with the people you are investigating or not.”