Political bias in the academy
Aug 9, 2012
Bishop Hill in Beddington

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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