Academics, on average, lean to the left. A survey being released today suggests that they are moving even more in that direction.
Among full-time faculty members at four-year colleges and universities, the percentage identifying as “far left” or liberal has increased notably in the last three years, while the percentage identifying in three other political categories has declined. The data come from the University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute, which surveys faculty members nationwide every three years on a range of attitudes.
Gauging how gradual or abrupt this shift is is complicated because of changes in the UCLA survey’s methodology; before 2007-8, the survey included community college faculty members, who have been excluded since. But for those years, examining only four-year college and university faculty members, the numbers are similar to those of 2007-8. Going back further, one can see an evolution away from the center.
In the 1998-9 survey, more than 35 percent of faculty members identified themselves as middle of the road, and less than half (47.5 percent) identified as liberal or far left. In the new data, 62.7 percent identify as liberal or far left. (Most surveys that have included community college faculty members have found them to inhabit political space to the right of faculty members at four-year institutions.)
The new data differ from some recent studies by groups other than the UCLA center that have found that professors (while more likely to lean left than right) in fact were doing so from more of a centrist position. A major study in 2007, for example, found that professors were more likely to be centrist than liberal, and that many on the left identified themselves as “slightly liberal.” (That study and the new one use different scales, making exact comparisons impossible.)
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