In any election cycle, there are bound to be references -- some of them disdainful -- to “liberal academe.” A new study is sure to elicit a least a few more such references, finding that social scientists who are registered to vote skew overwhelmingly Democratic -- 11.5 for every one Republican at top universities, to be exact.
The study, published online by Econ Journal Watch, considered voter registration data for faculty members at 40 leading U.S. institutions in economics, history, communications, law and psychology. Of 7,243 professors total, about half are registered. Some 3,623 are Democrats while just 314 are Republicans.
Economists are the most mixed group, with a ratio of 4.5 Democrats for every Republican. Historians as a group are the most lopsided, at 33.5 to one; the paper attributes this to the rise of specializations such as gender, culture, race and the environment. (Some classify history as one of the humanities disciplines.) Lawyers are 8.6 to one and psychologists are 17.4 to one, while communications scholars, including journalism professors, are 20 to one.
The ratios have become more extreme since 2004, according to the study, and age profiles suggest that trend will continue. That’s despite researchers’ concerns that current data may be “somewhat abberational,” given the polarizing candidacy of Republican Donald Trump for president.
Ratios are higher at more prestigious universities and lower among older professors and among those with higher ranks, according to the paper. There are also regional effects, with ratios highest in New England. (This finding replicates one recently made by a Sarah Lawrence College professor.) Women are much more likely to be registered Democrats, at 24.8 to one. Among men, the ratio is nine to one.