The percentage of faculty members at four-year colleges and universities across the country who identify as “far left” or liberal has rapidly increased in the last three years.
Meanwhile, the percentage who identify in the “Middle of the road” category has declined, according to data collected nationwide by the University of California at Los Angeles’ Higher Education Research Institute. A look back at the data from the past few decades shows a continuing shift away from the center and to the left among full-time faculty.
In the same survey in 1998, more than 35 percent of faculty members self-identified as “middle of the road,” and less than half (47.5 percent) identified as “liberal” or “far left.”
However, this new data differs from recent studies that show professors were more likely to lean left instead of right, but were doing this from a centrist position. A 2007 study by Inside Higher Education showed that professors were more likely to be centrist than liberal, and that these people were identifying themselves only as, “slightly liberal.”
Daniel Klein, a professor of economics at George Mason University who has written extensively about faculty political attitudes, told Inside Higher Ed that he was not surprised by the shift to the left. He said that he has seen “tendencies toward uniformity” in disciplines and departments, and that these trends tend to build upon themselves.
These distinctions also vary widely depending on the type of college or university.
Private research universities are the most left-leaning, with 16.2 percent of the faculty identifying with the far left and only 0.1 percent on the far right. If one combines the terms far left and liberal, private, four-year, non-religious colleges top private universities with 68.6 percent to 67.7 percent. The largest conservative contingent can be found at religious, non-Roman Catholic four-year colleges, where 23.0 percent identify as conservative and another 0.6 percent said that they are far right.
Community college faculty members have typically identified themselves to the right of faculty members at four-year institutions.