It is now well known that the American professoriate has been shifting leftward in its politics since the 1990s. In a new report for the Adam Smith Institute, I document that the British professoriate has been undergoing the same leftward shift, beginning in the 1980s, as shown in Figure 1*.
Figure 1. Percentage of academics supporting the Conservatives and major left-wing parties over time.
Notes: Figures are from Halsey (1992, Chapter 11, Appendix 1) and THE (2015).
*Please note that the numbers for 2015 are from a self-selecting poll that asked about vote intention while those for earlier years are from a systematic poll that asked about party closeness. Insofar as these figures are from different sources, the comparison I made has been subject to criticism. A blog post on the Adam Smith site responding to this criticism can be found here. In addition, Chris Hanretty has confirmed that there is a sizeable left-liberal skew, using independent data.
As well as attempting to document the size of the left-liberal skew, my report reviews possible explanations for it and considers consequences it may have had.
I conclude that intelligence cannot be the primary explanation, given that the distribution of party support within the top 5% of IQ is relatively similar to the distribution in the general population. However, I note that openness to experience probably explains part of the gap, people high on this trait being both more likely to choose an academic career and to have left-liberal views. Regarding consequences, I discuss important work by Heterodox Academy scholars, including Duarte et al’s seminal review paper, Chris Martin’s paper, and Campbell and Manning’s paper.
In the conclusion of the report, I offer recommendations to academics and other university gatekeepers, including raising awareness, encouraging adversarial collaborations, and emphasizing the benefits of ideological heterogeneity. While it be wrong-headed to suggest that the distribution of political views within academia should exactly match the distribution within society––after all, we know that people with different political views have different interests and aptitudes––the extreme left-liberal skew seen in certain disciplines (e.g., sociology, social psychology, cultural anthropology) is arguably having an adverse effect on both scholarship and the intellectual climate on campus.
For further details, please read the full report, which is available online via the Adam Smith Institute.
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