A study published late last year by sociologists John F. Zipp and Rudy Fenwick under the heading "Is the Academy a Liberal Hegemony? The Political Orientations and Educational Values of Professors" has got a fair bit of attention. It is a rather desperate attempt to deny the obvious -- that American university and college teachers are overwhelmingly Leftist.
They concede that party identification runs 7 to 1 in favour of Democrats among professors but argue that this does not adequately reflect ideology. Conservatives would certainly agree with that -- seeing professors as much more extreme Leftists than most Democrat voters are. That is the WRONG conclusion, however, according to the zippy one. He and his friend in fact argue that a lot of those academic Democrats are really centrists!
The study has been thoroughly shot down on a number of grounds by others (e.g. here and here) but I thought I should have a look at it nonetheless. I spent 20 years or so trying to measure people's political attitudes as precisely as possible and have over 100 academic journal articles in print reporting on the results of that. So the research concerned really is in my line of country. I thought I might be able to see defects that others have missed.
And I sure did! The attitude surveys from which they derived their data had only a 50% response rate! For many purposes that may not matter. That is actually a fairly good response rate compared to attitude surveys and opinion polls in general. But there is ONE occasion where a low response rate does matter a great deal. And that is the sort of occasion we have in the present case: Where one's sample includes a large number of political extremists. I tried for many years to get Communists and Nazis to complete my attitude surveys. I used every trick in the book to persuade them to do the task -- including getting recommendations of the task from their own authorities. But the comrades just would NOT do the task. They obviously felt -- probably rightly --that the results could be used to "get at" them in some way. And, as we all know, academe is now the only place where Marxism still has a strong following. I taught in a Sociology Department at a major university myself for many years so I can vouch for the popularity of Marx in such places. And what is true of Marxists as far as paranoia is concerned is probably also true of the fruitier versions of Leftism that also infest academe.
So Zipp and friend based their research on data from which the real Leftists were self-excluded! No wonder they found that the Leftists they did have were rather moderate! Rather hilarious, really.
(For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.)