Why Your Professor Was Liberal

I previously posted about the astounding news that English professors are more likely to be left-leaning than otherwise.

There’s been a fair amount of debate and anger about why conservatives are under-represented in academia. Some conservatives have accused universities of unfair hiring practices, while others have suggested that conservative thinkers avoid academia due to an environment that’s hostile to their political opinions.

There’s probably some of that going on, but new research suggests that the main force is more likely something completely different: Personal interests.

Conservatives, as a rule, seem to value a way of life that academia can’t give them. From the paper:

“Conservatives are simultaneously more family oriented, less interested in writing original works, more focused on financial success, less interested in developing a meaningful philosophy of life, and less interested in making a theoretical contribution to science [than liberals].”

The authors of the study, a wife and husband (he’s conservative, she’s liberal), say that these interests more than anything else point to the political make-up of university faculties.

[Link to the PDF of the paper. And here’s a link to an article about it thanks to aldaily.com]

One Response to Why Your Professor Was Liberal

  1. Kevin February 20, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    This sounds largely correct, to me. The conservative response to liberal universities in the 1980s was to create “think tanks” that would allow for shorter-term engagements to think about the big problems of life, and then allow the person to roll back into private industry or government service instead of worrying about a lifetime of being a professor.

    I think this same line of thinking can explain many of the so-called “liberal monopolies” in the world, such as the press and Hollywood. Vice-versa, most economists (even in “liberal” universities) lean conservative.

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