Faculty Survey Finds Growing Gap in Political Liberalism
There is increasing polarization in the political identification of college and university faculty, a new UCLA study shows.
Today, only 34 percent of college and university faculty identify as “middle-of-the road” politically (down from 40 percent in 1989). Although the percentage of faculty identifying as “conservative” or “far right” (18 percent) has changed very little, the percentage identifying as either “liberal” or “far left” has grown from 42 percent to 48 percent.
Movement toward “liberal” or “far left” political identification over the last 12 years has been especially strong among women faculty: from 45 percent to 54 percent.
Since 1989, there has been a 9 percent increase in the percentage of women who self-identify as “liberal” or “far left” compared with just a 3.5 percent increase among men. Today, 54 percent of women, compared to only 44 percent of men, identify as politically “liberal” or “far left.” In 2001, 21 percent of male professors and 14 percent of female professors defined their political views as either “conservative” or “far right.”
“The disproportionately greater shift we see toward liberal political views among women faculty may be attributable to their dissatisfaction with the Republican Party’s current position on issues that often impact women’s lives more directly such as abortion, welfare and equal rights,” says Dr. Jennifer Lindholm, UCLA visiting assistant professor, associate director of the Higher Education Research Institute’s Cooperative Institutional Research Program and lead author of the faculty survey.
Political views are just one aspect of the study, which also found that today’s faculty are more attentive to students, put greater focus on diversity issues, offer more innovative teaching methods and continue to show support for tenure.
The 2001–02 faculty survey is the fifth triennial survey conducted since 1989 by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), housed at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. For more information, visit the institute’s Web site at
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