Why Academia Leans to the Left
Why do PhDs in academia tend to be politically liberal? A paragraph in Science magazine’s feature “Random Samples” on December 21 suggested a reason: conservatives value other goals, like going into business to make money, or choosing to stay home and raise a family.1
“Why are academics in the United States so politically liberal? Are conservative students oppressed by a biased professoriate, or are liberals simply smarter? Neither,” was the conclusion of two scientists in Pennsylvania who surveyed 15,000 college students.
The Woessners found that self-described liberals and conservatives report no difference in grades or in the quality of their education. Yet liberal college students are twice as likely as conservative ones to pursue Ph.D.s The main reasons, the authors conclude, are differences in values, goals, and preferences. Liberals placed higher values on creativity; conservatives were more oriented toward raising families and making money.
The findings apparently held for the hard sciences as well as for social sciences and humanities.
An accompanying graph shows a steep rise on the “far left” side for those seeking doctorates, while moderates and “far right” individuals could care (somewhat) less. Another visually-apparent result on the graph is that conservatives and moderates, as seniors, tend to feel the same way about their goals as they did as freshman. Liberals, however, tend to warm up to a doctoral program as they approach their senior year.
1. “Random Samples: Left on Campus,” Science, Volume 318, Number 5858, Issue of 21 December 2007.
Surveys and graphs have only limited credibility because of the possibilities of biased sampling and leaving out relevant causes (see Baloney Detector on statistics). At least Science admitted that liberalism is rampant at the university (see 12/02/2004), and also confessed that liberals (and PhDs) are not necessarily smarter. (The vulgar translations for the acronyms B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. may be apropos here.)*
It appears that conservatives are the fittest, working hard to pass on their genes, while liberals are like parasites, advancing primarily by taking over the host (the classroom) and churning out clones to infect other cells. A university setting is a contrived, unnatural environment where the parasites thrive. In the open air of true academic freedom, where the parasites would have to compete in the real world, the results might be quite different.