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« Wind payback period "several millennia" | Main | Record spinning »
Thursday
Aug092012

Political bias in the academy

It has long been known that universities are overwhelmingly staffed by people of a left-wing persuasion, this having been shown by many surveys. According to a report in Inside Higher Ed, a significant proportion of these collectivist professors are happy to use their positions to keep down people of dissenting views.

Just over 37 percent of those surveyed said that, given equally qualified candidates for a job, they would support the hiring of a liberal candidate over a conservative candidate. Smaller percentages agreed that a "conservative perspective" would negatively influence their odds of supporting a paper for inclusion in a journal or a proposal for a grant. (The final version of the paper is not yet available, but an early version may be found on the website of the Social Science Research Network.)

To some on the right, such findings are hardly surprising. But to the authors, who expected to find lopsided political leanings, but not bias, the results were not what they expected.

"The questions were pretty blatant. We didn't expect people would give those answers," said Yoel Inbar, a co-author, who is a visiting assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and an assistant professor of social psychology at Tilburg University, in the Netherlands.

He said that the findings should concern academics. Of the bias he and a co-author found, he said, "I don't think it's O.K."

Politicians need to remember this, next time their chief scientific advisers tell them what they should be doing.

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Reader Comments (78)

"pretty blatant" does indeed mean thjey thought about what questions would be most conducive to their political agenda & went that way. The "researchers" have thereby inadvertantly proved their own results before starting the research.

Aug 9, 2012 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

At last, some social science which the right wing readers of Bishop Hill are likely to agree with. (And what will that tell us?)

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:04 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

You don't seem to understand, leftist people are good and caring. Therefore anyone NOT left-wing, and therefore right-wing notwithstanding their individual views, is evil and callous. That defines it. And it justifies not hiring them or publishing their papers. They are EVIL.

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterRhoda Klapp

"pretty blatant" does indeed mean they thought about what questions would be most conducive to their political agenda & went that way."

Did you actually read the article.?
They are implying the questions were clear and unambiguous..

"The "researchers" have thereby inadvertantly proved their own results before starting the research."

No..its not a $CAGW$(tm) paper.
Once again..read the flipping summary.."We didn't expect people would give those answers," said Yoel Inbar.
You didnt like the result..bad luck.. :)..and its not like its a surprise is it tiger..?

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered Commentermike williams

"If you are wondering about the political leanings of the social psychologists who conducted the study, they are on the left. Inbar said he describes himself as "a pretty doctrinaire liberal," who volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 and who votes Democrat. His co-author, Joris Lammers of Tilburg, is to Inbar's left, he said."

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

It's called O’Sullivan’s Law named after British journalist John O’Sullivan which states that any organization or enterprise that is not expressly right wing will become left wing over time due to the influence of the less tolerant left individuals within the organisation acting to eliminate and prevent hiring of more tolerant right wing individuals.

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterRobL

Neil Gross, a professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia said:

He also said that the numbers would have been "more meaningful" if they had asked about actual behavior by respondents in the last year, not the more general question of whether they might do these things.

Neil obviously knows how to skew the results. Most of those responding would not have had the opportunity to act on their bias so the results would have shown that little or no bias exists.

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterTerryS

Ah! Its only the clever repressing the stupid. Nothing to worry my pretty head about.

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

Simply something we knew already ...

"a significant proportion of these collectivist professors are happy to use their positions to keep down people of dissenting views."

...but not only in the hiring, also in the firing, or rather those whose tenures simply aren't renewed.

"chemist Nickolas Drapela, PhD has been summarily fired from his position as a “Senior Instructor” in the Department of Chemistry. The department chairman Richard Carter told him that he was fired but would not provide any reason. Subsequent attempts to extract a reason from the OSU administration have been stonewalled. Drapela appears to have been highly competent and well-liked by his students. Some have even taken up the fight to have him reinstated....Dr. Drapela is an outspoken critic of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming"

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/06/11/climate-skeptic-instructor-fired-from-oregon-state-university/

"...faculty administrators at Oregon State University gave new meaning to the term “political payback.”
They initiated an attack on my three children – Joshua, Bethany and Matthew – for the purpose of throwing them all out of the OSU graduate school, despite their outstanding academic and research accomplishments.."

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/03/07/climate-ugliness-gets-personal/

Nor is it simply on who teaches but also what is taught - the blatant propaganda -


"...This calculator helps children to determine how much of a "greenhouse pig" a person is by answering questions about how much the person spends and consumes. On the basis of these answers the calculator determines the person's CO2 consumption, which is depicted by making the cartoon "greenhouse pig" look bigger, fatter, dirtier and angrier. When the child has answered the questions they are instructed to click on a skull and cross-bones symbol to find out when the person should die, depicted by having the pig explode in a bloody cartoon mess leaving only a pool of blood and a curly tail...Aside from learning when they should die, children can also share in Greena's adventures as she battles against all sorts of politically incorrect villains. In Episode 10, which bears the subtitle "Meat Is Murder … But Who Is that Dodgy-Looking Sheep?" Greena sees a dim-witted skinhead eating lamb and drinking beer in a restaurant.[8] She consults her "Activist Tactical Field Guide," which tells her:

REMEMBER: Most meat eaters are total hypocrites. Try confronting them with a live version of their favourite meat. "


This sort of political brainwashing has no place in our schools.

http://mises.org/daily/2997

And oh what hypocrisy -

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/copenhagen-climate-change-confe/6736517/Copenhagen-climate-summit-1200-limos-140-private-planes-and-caviar-wedges.html

And remember the Al Gore video shown in our schools

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnjx6KETmi4

Hypocritical as ever ....

http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/05/how-green-is-al-gores-9-million-montecito-ocean-front-villa/

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

Re: Aug 9, 2012 at 11:04 AM | geoffchambers

"At last, some social science which the right wing readers of Bishop Hill are likely to agree with. (And what will that tell us?"

So, Geoff, what does it tell a 'left wing reader' of Bishop Hill?

Aug 9, 2012 at 12:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

At last, some social science which the right wing readers of Bishop Hill are likely to agree with. (And what will that tell us?)
Aug 9, 2012 at 11:04 AM geoffchambers

Nothing we didn't already know - that's for sure.

This is Ursine Defecatory Practice science if ever I saw it.

Aug 9, 2012 at 12:11 PM | Registered CommenterFoxgoose

More from His Grace's reference:

Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia polled the audience of some 1,000 in a convention center ballroom to ask how many were liberals (the vast majority of hands went up), how many were centrists or libertarians (he counted a couple dozen or so), and how many were conservatives (three hands went up). In his talk, he said that the conference reflected "a statistically impossible lack of diversity,” in a country where 40 percent of Americans are conservative and only 20 percent are liberal.

"a statistically impossible lack of diversity"??

Clearly not impossible, maybe not even improbable. Why can't he see it when it's staring him in the face?

As to the paper, that the polled would admit to being willing to exercise their biases is very troubling. And it is troubling because they are comfortable revealing that they would discriminate on substantive professional actions based on political differences. Likely a lot of people would do the same thing, but never admit it. Very worrying.

That they are so comfortable would suggest that they live among people who mostly agree with them and the opportunity to bomb a conservative doesn't often arise. Do any of you wonder why?

Aug 9, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Geoff, it's really easy to accept research that confirms what you know to be true. It doesn't seem at all improbable to me that people on the public purse, like those bien pensant in the drawing rooms of Islington and Notting Hill are largely left wing, and as someone has said they believe they're right and very intelligent, and anyone who doesn't agree with them is dim and malicious.

There is of course a spectrum of left wingers, I had to do a political opinion assessment to get onto a warmist site for some reason I've now forgotten. I was right there with Ghandi on the left wing side of the chart. This would be because I'm a libertarian and cannot see any reason why christians can't have women priests, or why gays and lesbians can't seal their relationship in a civil, or in my view a religious, ceremony etc. etc.

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I think the left/right divide is an idealist/pragmatist divide. I would say a life in academia is extremely idealist and therefore is more likely to be attractive to left leaning people.
Geronimo I have no problem with gay relationships and civil partnerships but I do have a problem with gay "marriage" even though I am not religious. To me marriage is, by definition, the joining of a man and a woman and it should stay that way (right wing or what hehe).

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:31 PM | Registered CommenterDung

It amazes me that any scientific person can be of the left.

The experiment was done, it failed and killed 120 million.

I would suggest those on the left suffer from Dunning-Kruger rather than have intelligent attributes.

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

AC1

I do not believe there is any intelligence gap between left and right, politics is not a function of intelligence.

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:37 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Universities can turn out intelligent people (in the sense of knowledge and IQ).

They also turn out some really dumb ones in terms of common sense and how the world works.

Example: Professor Paul Frampton, double first from Oxford, now facing life in an Argentine jail on drug-smuggling charges because he believed an online scam that he was talking to the well-endowed young model Denise Milani, who would marry him (at age 68) when he got to Bolivia with a 'package' to carry for her.

His wife charitably described him as a 'naive fool'.

Many people with PhDs have not even an iota of common sense.

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Rick

Intelligence is not a function of knowledge. Knowledge plus intelligence = intellect. A person can be hugely intelligent and appear to have no sense because he does not apply his intelligence in all situations and does not have knowledge of all situations.

Aug 9, 2012 at 1:43 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Dung,

There is something called IQ which enables people to reason abstractly (one of Frampton's papers is entitled Chiral Dilepton Model and the Flavor Question, which argues a certain ability to solve logical problems).

Then there is emotional maturity (sometimes referred to as EQ), which could loosely be defined as the ability to reason and operate socially, which in most people (not Frampton, unfortunately) increases as they grow older.

IQ is not a big marker between Left and Right -- but a sure sign of a Leftist is a low EQ -- inability to see other points of view, grandiose self-regard, thin-skinned personalities allied to huge egos with consequent spoilt behaviour.

Michael Mann is a classic example; just read what he has said and written over the past year or so. The ability to argue his case logically (as he sees it) is there; so also are the emotional whinings of a spoilt 7-year-old. Emotional immaturity writ large.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Maybe those questioned have a different view of the term "conservative" than people in the UK. Conservative in the US covers a large number of extreme positions (anti-evolution, birthers, anti-immigrant, guns, even drug criminalisation). If the UK Conservative party had prominent such figures as Sarah Palin, a large part of the UK population would sympathise with the professors surveyed.

I'm a UK conservative but I would have to think long and hard before voting for the US right.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Maybe those questioned have a different view of the term "conservative" than people in the UK. Conservative in the US covers a large number of extreme positions (anti-evolution, birthers, anti-immigrant, guns, even drug criminalisation). If the UK Conservative party had prominent such figures as Sarah Palin, a large part of the UK population would sympathise with the professors surveyed.

I'm a UK conservative but I would have to think long and hard before voting for the US right.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:26 PM | BitBucket>>>>>

I would think most US Republicans would find your description of US conservatives to be that of extreme right wing groups not representative of them.

Much as we have our own right wing [and left wing] extremists in the UK.

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterRKS

Indoctrinate U is a 2007 documentary film written, directed by, and starring Evan Coyne Maloney, regarding ideological conformism and political correctness in American higher education. Among other things, the film examines the use of institutional mechanisms such as speech codes, which it claims are used to punish students who express political views that are unpopular within academia. (from Wiki)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu94dVeFDdg

Aug 9, 2012 at 2:38 PM | Unregistered Commenterharold

Rick

I only commented because of these two comments you made ^.^:

Universities can turn out intelligent people (in the sense of knowledge and IQ).

They also turn out some really dumb ones in terms of common sense and how the world works.

:

The first comment seemed to impy that intelligent meant IQ plus knowledge which according to my dictionary is intellect.
I agree with your second comment but was trying to give my own understanding of "no common sense".
It is also worth saying that it is not the job of universities to explain how "the world" works :P

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:00 PM | Registered CommenterDung

"The more liberal the survey respondents identified as being, the more likely they were to say that they would discriminate."

Says it all really.....

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterMarion

TerryS

Reminds me of Sir Humphrey’s explanation to Bernard about polling, where he provided two sets of questions designed to elicit opposing answers to the suggestion that National Service should be reinstated. I’ve never believed polls since.. :-)

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:15 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

The political left need two things:

A good dose of George Carlin

An understanding of "tough love"

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:17 PM | Registered CommenterDung

BitBucket

The problem with Sarah Palin was that she was just plain dumb, it was nothing to do with politics. Unfortunately the US right seems to have found another dumb presidential candidate for the next election.

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:22 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Zed and follow-ups removed.

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:31 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Dung,

Unfortunately in avoiding Dumb, we got Dumber.

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom

Sarah Palin may be insular but she managed to get the people of Alaska to vote her into office as governor and she appeared credible to the republican leadership and/or John McCain. If success is judged by fame and money, she is successful. Ignorant she may be, but dumb?

Aug 9, 2012 at 3:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

BitBucket, I take it you are not an American?

Idiots can succeed in the US, and grow rich. They can find high-office. Is that impossible in the UK?

Maybe so.

Had Palin had the slightest hint of intelligence she might have said the following when blindsided by Katie Couric's question about what she read:

"Katie, I don't read a lot of the national magazines because being Governor of Alaska has very Alaska-specific requirements. Much of what I deal with happens in a hurry and is dealt with by talking with the principals. Although being governor of this state does involve some international exposure in areas such as fishing rights, the foreign interface is, as the constitution requires, through the Federal Government. My job is to make certain that the State Department understand our perspective.

I had to come up to speed in a hurry when i was elected to this job. I would expect to do the same thing, should I be elected to the Vice Presidency."

Instead, we got the "deer in the headlights." It could be that Alaskans have a special affection for "deer in the headlights."

I doubt that the readers here would have any further interest in my views on the significance of McCaine's choice of her as a running mate, but I found it both revealing and disturbing.

Aug 9, 2012 at 4:36 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Oops, That should be "Maybe not", not "Maybe so" up there. I had not intention of suggesting that idiots could get rich or reach high office in the UK. That BitBucket suggested that either of these achievements revealed intelligence made me think that he had little experience with things west of the pond.

Sorry.

Aug 9, 2012 at 4:53 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Peoples's politics almost always reflect the interests of their wallets. Don't have skills to earn lots of money in business = left wing. Highly valued skills or a lot of assets = right wing.

Almost everything else to do with politics is rationalisation.

Aug 9, 2012 at 5:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobL

"'a statistically impossible lack of diversity'?? Clearly not impossible, maybe not even improbable. Why can't he see it when it's staring him in the face?"--jferguson

He obviously meant: 'this lack of diversity can't be explained by statistical sampling error, it must stem from deliberate causation.'

Aug 9, 2012 at 6:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

"The questions were pretty blatant. We didn't expect people would give those answers,"

The assumption being that, when questioned, we expected those questioned to hide their real political outlook. There are countless situations throughout history where, once one is confident that support will flood in from all directions, any political outlook becomes rational and promotable.

Aug 9, 2012 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered Commenter3x2

Penitants are welcome to whisper confessions here. The Bishop is most understanding, just and magnanimous in setting the appropriate penances.

Aug 9, 2012 at 7:55 PM | Registered CommenterPharos

Jorge,
One might ask if one third of a faculty won't hire conservatives, supposedly all else being equal (which is itself ridiculous), how many hires will be required to free the faculty from conservatism. Maybe this is how the gang Haidt was addressing came to be that way.

Alternatively, in a group like that, who but the tenured would admit to being conservative?

Aug 9, 2012 at 8:10 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

"I do not believe there is any intelligence gap between left and right, politics is not a function of intelligence."

Before the 1960s, surveys of academics in the US showed political leanings that pretty much reflected the split among the population in general.

What changed since then? The over politicization of many fields especially in the social sciences. commensurate with that change came a shift in funding to the state, away from private sources, colleges and universities.

In short, the academic population changed to reflect politicization of scholarship. This was no accident. Self-election has given way to biased selection. And now enforced bias, as fascism of the Left asserted itself.

Aug 9, 2012 at 8:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterOrson

"A radical is a man with both feet firmly planted in the air" [Franklin D. Roosevelt radio broadcast]

Aug 9, 2012 at 10:13 PM | Unregistered CommenterPharos

In other news, July in Virginia is hot.

Today in the USA, if a tenured academic challenges one of the ever multiplying Liberal sacred cows then the reaction from Liberals is quite simply Pavlovian.

Aug 9, 2012 at 10:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterTheo Goodwin

jferguson, intelligence has many forms and not all are easily measured. I have high intelligence by normal measures but have achieved little; others, who are less 'gifted', have achieved far more in their careers than I can hope to.

I have little knowledge of Palin beyond the obvious exposure from TV. She may not measure up on your intelligence meter but then I'd be equally thrown if required to provide spontaneous answers to reporters' questions. Hence I would never seek office. But I would say she has been quite clever, dumb or not.

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterBitBucket

Mr Bucket

An intelligent person who was aware of their lack of knowledge on a particular subject would decline to comment. Palin and Romney do not understand that. I really wanted a republican to get in but now it is a lose lose situation. Either Obamah gets in or another idiot gets in :(

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:36 PM | Registered CommenterDung

Orson

I think you are absolutely right, sady I do not know how to make a difference :(

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:42 PM | Registered CommenterDung

But BitBucket, you wouldn't seek office. That's the difference. She did, and without the smarts to play the inevitable games, or even sufficient to recognize she couldn't handle the political battlefield - which does include Katie Couric.

Wouldn't you think that an intelligent person would appraise their own capabilities with respect to the challenges he/she was likely to face?

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:58 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

"Maybe those questioned have a different view of the term "conservative" than people in the UK. Conservative in the US covers a large number of extreme positions (anti-evolution, birthers, anti-immigrant, guns, even drug criminalisation). If the UK Conservative party had prominent such figures as Sarah Palin, a large part of the UK population would sympathise with the professors surveyed.

I'm a UK conservative but I would have to think long and hard before voting for the US right."

In the UK conservative means the somewhat opposite as in the US.

In the UK and europe in general conservatives are leftwing/communism. Where in the US conservative generally means centrist. Much of the issues you cite are centrist/leftwing issues.

In the UK "liberals" would be generally more similar to the US "rightwing" party aka the republican party which is of course centrist.


Much of the current problem is that colleges value of science vs "feelings/proper thought". In the old days when colleges focused heavily on teaching real science such as math, engineering, physics and other real sciences that one must prove or disapprove you had more balance.

Now however most colleges are heavily weight toward meaningless "science" such as race politics and other completely non-provable/disprovable opinion based classes.

This results in a complete lack of eduction in things like logic, reasoning, critical thinking, rational thought and the use of the scientific method.

People goto college and leave "knowing" everything they learned is right and never being able to learn anything new afterward because reality conflicts with the fantasy they were thought.

The left is is all about collectivism. Facts, science, reality are in the end meaningless to them and they display this often. Much as this study will be quickly buried because it doesn't suit the proper thought and thus must be wrong.

Aug 9, 2012 at 11:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterrobotech master

geoffchambers,
From your comment I'm not sure whether you are classifying the majority of Bishop Hill readers as right-wing, or just addressing your comment to only those people at BH who are right-wing [by your definition].

Either way, dividing people into "left wing and "right wing" is not of much interest to me when I post comments on blogs such as this one. I would never have described my self as a party-political activist, yet have never voted for a party that would have been described as right of centre. [Though I may do so in the future]. The reasons why I post are:
(1) Because I have grave reservations that anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide are anything to worry about.
(2) The proposed remedy for this non-problem would be very damaging for most people in the world
(3) Since the advent of the internet/www, I am now able to express my grave reservations in front of a wider audience because there is not yet a political party that seems willing or able to publicly reflect my opinions on this matter.

Aug 10, 2012 at 2:08 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

A couple of (conservative?) commentators completely misinterpreted the sense of this research at the beginning of the thread. They were corrected, but it was too late to prevent the usual anti-left foolishness (lefties kill hundreds of millions etc) from drowning out the sensible (geronimo, jferguson).

Please note that the liberal authors of the paper and the liberal commentator interviewed by the journalist were disturbed to find that liberal academics were willing to act on their political prejudices (and willing to admit it). So am I.

My political views are so unmentionable in the US that I would be forced to describe myself as a liberal, though I’m not. I’m what the survey describes as “more liberal”.
Perhaps the climate of opinion in the USA which obliges socialists to hide their views behind the label “more liberal” helps to explain this morally unacceptable behaviour?

Aug 10, 2012 at 5:19 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

A[...]behavior.
Aug 10, 2012 at 5:19 AM | Registered Commenter geoffchambers


And leave it to anti-science, anti-history, anti-fact, anti-logic leftwingers to blame the victim for they're collectivist issues.

Aug 10, 2012 at 7:44 AM | Unregistered Commenterrobotech master

Speaking as someone with an almost pathological hatred of almost all politicians and as a person unwilling to be categorised as either left or right or centrist......surely this is a bit irrelevant?

Should we not be concerned with whether good science or bad science is produced, rather than the politics of those who produce it?

Or is this not about science any more? One of the many appeals of the Bishop Hill Experience is an unusually refreshing absence of political dogma.

Aug 10, 2012 at 7:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJack Savage

Oohhh poor Geoff. Those millions of dead, show trials, gulags, oppression etc are just so inconvenient. Why can't we just forget them and put the left in charge. What can go wrong?

Aug 10, 2012 at 10:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterandy

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