Partisan Registration and Contributions of Faculty in Flagship Colleges

Summary of Study

Bottom Line: In a survey of 12,372 American university professors, 48.4 percent are registered Democrats and 5.7 percent are registered Republicans, a ratio of 8.5:1. This ratio is nearly eight times larger than that of the general population, where 29 percent are Democrats and 26 percent are Republicans, a ratio of 1.1:1.

A significant amount of academic research has noted a large imbalance between Democrats and Republican professors on college campuses. This survey builds on this literature with additional findings:

  1. Although the ratio of faculty who identify as or are registered as Democratic versus Republican varies across departments, it almost always favors the Democratic Party.
  2. The D:R registration ratio is typically higher among disciplines in the humanities and social sciences compared to those in the natural sciences and engineering.
  3. The D:R registration ratio has increased over time, from roughly 4.5:1 in 1999 to 10:1 among elite liberal arts colleges and social science departments now.
  4. The partisan slant is most extreme in the most highly rated institutions.

In all nine academic disciplines that this survey measured, the D:R registration ratio favors the Democratic Party. Broadly, the natural sciences are the least politically homogenous, with the D:R registration ratio ranging from 4.6:1 (chemistry) to 9.4:1 (Biology). In the social sciences, the D:R registration ratio varies to a much greater extent. Economics has the smallest D:R registration ratio at 3:1 among all nine disciplines, while anthropology has the largest at 42.2:1.

Region is also associated with differences in the D:R registration ratio, which was highest at colleges located in the Northeast (15.4:1). This is consistent with previous work suggesting that political homogeneity among professors is higher in the Northeast (New England, in particular) compared to the rest of the country. The D:R registration ratio in the Northeast is also roughly three times the size of the D:R registration ratio in the Midwest (4.7:1). The South’s D:R ratio may be elevated by remnants of its traditional association with the Democratic Party.

The D:R registration ratio among female faculty (16.4:1) is more than twice the D:R registration ratio among male faculty (6.4:1). Roughly two-thirds of the faculty sampled are male.

Differences in the D:R registration ratio by professor rank are also evident, and it was highest among assistant professors (10.5:1) compared to associate (8.7:1) and full professors (8.2:1).

The overall D:R donation ratio was 95:1. Among the 12,372 professors sampled, in raw numbers, there were 10,260 nondonors, 2,081 Democratic donors, 22 Republican donors, and 9 donors to both parties across both election cycles.

Read the full study here.

Feature Charticle

Democrat to Republican College Faculty Ratio By Discipline

NAS

Findings:

  • Although the ratio of faculty who identify as or are registered as Democratic versus Republican varies across departments, it almost always favors the Democratic Party.
  • Broadly, the natural sciences are the least politically homogenous, with the D:R registration ratio ranging from 4.6:1 (Chemistry) to 9.4:1 (Biology).
  • In the social sciences, the D:R registration ratio varies to a much greater extent. Economics has the smallest D:R registration ratio at 3:1 among all nine disciplines, while anthropology has the largest at 42.2:1. 

Read the full study here