Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Latest Study of the "Political Ideology" of Academics

The Chronicle of Higher Ed story is here (subscription access only); and the InsideHigherEd story is here.  The study appears to correct for some of the deficiencies of earlier efforts, though also appears to have plenty of its own.  A commenter at the InsideHigherEd (a Canadian named Steven Downes) makes the key point:

The only reason professors appear to be ‘left’ is that the benchmark in the U.S. has been shifted so far to the right.

A ‘liberal’ professor in the U.S. would be thought of as centerist or even right wing in Canada and in Europe. The United States has very few genuinely left wing professors, labled ‘extremely liberal’.

The proof of this can be seen in the issues: the Iraq war, the role of women, abortion, gay rights. These are no longer left-right political issues in most countries. Only the most extreme right raises the minority point of view on these at all.

As usual, the advice is to view American issues from a more global context. Observers will find that the professoriate, which is part of an international community, stands to the right of the global political spectrum, which is to be expected.

As for the redefinition of what constitutes ‘moderate’ and ‘liberal’, well, we have only articles like this to blame, that feed rather than correct a narrow prejudice.

It would be nice if someone actually had a substantive response to the points I made against Peter Schuck about this issue some time ago.  Absent such a response, it's hard not to yawn about these studies.


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