New survey: ratio of liberal to conservative sociologists is 314 to 1

A new survey was reported at Heterodox Academy.


Bill von Hippel and David Buss surveyed the membership of the Society for Experimental Social Psychology. That’s a professional society composed of the most active researchers in the field who are at least five years post-PhD. It’s very selective – you must be nominated by a current member and approved by a committee before you can join. Von Hippel and Buss sent a web survey to the 900 members of SESP and got a response rate of 37% (335 responses). So this is a good sample of the mid-level and senior people (average age 51) who produce most of the research in social psychology.

[…]At the end of the survey, they happened to include a very good set of measures of political identity. Not just self-descriptions, but also whom the person voted for in the 2012 US Presidential election. And they asked nine questions about politically valenced policy questions, such as “Do you support gun control?” “Do you support gay marriage?” and “Do you support a woman’s right to get an abortion?”

The results are interesting, here’s the part I wanted to highlight:

A third way of graphing the viewpoint diversity of these senior social psychologists is by computing an average score across all 9 of the politically valenced policy items. For each one, the 11 point response scale was labeled “strongly oppose” on the left-most point and “strongly support” on the right-most point. I converted all responses to the same 11 point scale used in figure 1 so that “strongly supporting” the progressive position (e.g., pro-choice) was scored as -5 and “strongly supporting” the conservative position (e.g., prayer in school) was scored as +5. That puts the leftists on the left and the rightists on the right of the graph. Here’s the graph:

Diversity of opinion in academia
Diversity of opinion in academia

I counted anyone whose average score fell between -1.0 and +1.0 (inclusive) as a centrist. The graph shows that 314 of the 327 participants (96.0%) had an average score below -1.0 (i.e., left of center), one had an average score above +1.0 (i.e., right of center), and 12 were centrists. That gives us a Left to Right ratio of 314 to one.

The one right of center guy is not even that far right of center!

So what should we say about this? Well, I’ll say this. Secular leftists in academia are the most narrow-minded, intolerant, bigoted people on the planet. They have all kids of hateful prejudices, and they are completely unable to consider any opinion that is different from their own. They only read material that they agree with, never anything they disagree with, because that causes them discomfort. They have no awareness of arguments and evidence from conservative or Christian viewpoints. All of this hateful bigotry does lead to active discrimination against Christians and conservatives in areas like hiring decisions, promotions, and so on. And what’s more, this secular leftism is not the result of any honest investigation of arguments and evidence. It’s just feelings-based nonsense.

Consider this post by moderate sociologist George Yancey.

He writes:

It is well established that academics tend to be more politically progressive and secular than the general population. It is obvious that they are highly educated. So academia theoretically should be a place where we would find a higher than normal level of Christianophobia. This Christianophobia may manifest in discrimination against conservative Christians. A few years ago I conducted research suggesting that this is the case. I found that academics were willing to discriminate against a prospective candidate for an academic position if they found out that the candidate is a conservative Protestant. In fact, they were more willing to discriminate against conservative Protestants than against any other social group included in my survey. Their willingness to discriminate against those Protestants was even more powerful than their willingness to discriminate against political conservatives. Religious intolerance trumps potential political intolerance among academics.

Of course simply because academics state that they are open to discriminating against conservative Protestants does not mean that they actually engage in such discrimination. A survey is not sufficient evidence. However, Rothman and Lichter conducted research documenting that academics with socially conservative beliefs tend to be located in lower status occupational positions even after controlling for demographic variables and their level of productivity. If conservative Protestants are more likely to have socially conservative beliefs than other academics, a reasonable belief, then this research suggests systematic evidence that there are occupational disadvantages in academia to having conservative Christian beliefs. Since academics have a willingness to discriminate against those Christians, this disadvantage cannot merely be due to their inability to do science, as the common stereotype of Christians seems to imply, but discrimination from academics who may be motivated by Christianophobia is likely an important factor.

So, do you still think it makes sense to take out loans to study subjects that are dominated by the secular left? They will literally deny you a degree that you earned, if you dissent from their radically leftist dogma at any point.

Should you borrow tens of thousands of dollars to be brainwashed by ivory-tower leftists? I think a better plan is to study something that pays – petroleum engineering, computer science, etc. It seems to me that it’s not really an education to spend four years learning the catechism of secular leftists. A real education should involve learning the arguments for both sides, in an environment that is open and truth-focused. The non-STEM departments of the university are not the place for learning. It’s just a secular leftist seminary.

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