Liberal profs outnumber conservatives 28-to-1 in New England
- Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, reviewed 25 years' of survey data and found that the proportion of liberal professors has tripled since 1989.
- Nationally, the share of liberal professors rose from 2-to-1 to 6-to-1 between 1989 and 2014.
- The shift was especially severe in New England, where liberal professors now outnumber conservatives 28-to-1, up from a 5-to-1 ratio in 1989.
A study of survey data collected over 25 years has confirmed that university faculty in New England are far more liberal than anywhere else in the nation, outnumbering conservatives 28-to-1, compared to a 6-to-1 ratio nationally.
Samuel Abrams, a professor of politics at Sarah Lawrence College, notes in an op-ed for The New York Times Sunday that while decades of survey data confirm liberal preponderance throughout the academy, one region in particular stands out for its particularly extreme imbalance: New England.
“I cannot say for certain why New England is so far to the left,” Abrams concedes. “But what I can say, based on the evidence, is that if you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don’t put New England at the top of your list.”
Reviewing surveys of professors’ ideological leanings that were conducted by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) between 1989 and 2014, Abrams discovered a distinct leftward shift over the past 25 years, but was surprised to discover that “the factor that had the greatest impact on the ideological leanings of college professors was their geographic region.”
The HERI surveys reveal that liberal academics outnumbered their conservative peers in 1989 by a 2-to-1 margin nationally, while in New England the figure was 5-to-1. Twenty-five years later, the national ratio had tripled, coming in at 6-to-1 in 2014, but that increase paled in comparison to New England, where the discrepancy reached an astronomical 28-to-1.
Abrams reassured Campus Reform that the findings, both in New England and nationally, are not indicative of the nation’s overall ideological leanings, suggesting instead that they are a product of groupthink and unconscious bias among university faculty and administrators who control the hiring process for new professors.
“On average the nation is more conservative than it is liberal, but professors are just so far left,” he explained. “It’s a very strong finding to see that suddenly it’s not a myth, and that academics really has shifted to be far more liberal.”
The reason for the disproportionate leftward bias in New England, Abrams added, can be attributed primarily to the hiring process rather than an ideological shift in the region.
“What’s going on in New England is most likely that they are hiring more liberal professors, rather than these professors actually becoming more liberal, and over time that can culminate into a big shift toward the left,” Abrams said. “Typically, we hire people because we’re planning on working with them and it’s a lot more attractive to have people you agree with.”
Indeed, Abrams recounts experiencing just that phenomenon when he started teaching at Sarah Lawrence in 2010, recalling that colleagues used to joke that he was a “targeted hire” because his moderate political views were practically heretical at the ultra-liberal college.
According to Abrams’ findings, the leftward shift in academia became most noticeable in the mid-1990’s.
In 1989, the surveys showed that 40 percent of professors identified as liberal, 40 percent as moderates, and only 20 percent were conservative. In 2014, however, professors identifying as liberal climbed to 60 percent, while the share of moderate professors fell to 30 percent and conservatives declined to 10 percent.
The research findings present a much larger issue than a regional ideological gap, Abrams notes, pointing out that an increase in liberal ideology can potentially lead to issues regarding free speech and academic freedom.
“It just makes you go ‘wow, it’s getting harder and harder to find non-progressive professors on campuses right now,’” he told Campus Reform. “It’s very hard to challenge people with different views on college campuses right now because there’s no one to support you.”
Abrams said the importance of establishing a balanced environment and giving students the opportunity to hear perspectives from both sides of the isle is crucial because it is currently not happening on college campuses today.
“If these are the people who are teaching our future leaders, then it begs the question, are these professors really the most balanced group of people, are these students really getting the most balanced education?” he asked.“The data suggest maybe not.”
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