Are All Law Professors Democrats?
The NYT runs a story about a forthcoming Georgetown Law Journal article assessing political contributions from law professors at 21 highly-ranked law schools. The findings:
* 1/3 of these professors gave to political campaigns
* “81 percent who contributed $200 or more gave wholly or mostly to Democrats; 15 percent gave wholly or mostly to Republicans”
* at the top 3 schools, the numbers were even more extremely skewed to Democrats: “91 percent at Harvard, 92 at Yale, 94 at Stanford”
* in a stat that surely throws doubt on the entire project, “University of Chicago is slightly more liberal than Berkeley”
What’s going on here? Is all of legal academia filled with bleeding-hearts? I haven’t read the full paper, but some obvious limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from the study (based on the NYT recap):
* sample size. The NYT references this obliquely, but I wonder how many people met the $200 threshold at each school
* criteria. By focusing on political giving, this may measure only people who have either deeply-held beliefs or money to burn, not the “average” faculty member
* sample pool. There are about 190 law schools in the country. Focusing on only top-ranked schools provides only limited insights into the entire pool of law professors generally
* misnomers. It’s probably a mistake (or, at least, a gross generalization) to equal “Democrats” with “liberals”
* baseline. I wonder how the numbers would compare for other areas of academia. What numbers should we expect when doing this type of survey of academics?
The rest of the article is filled with surprisingly shallow stereotypes to explain why top-ranked law schooss might skew left and how that impacts students. Nevertheless, until we get better insights into the phenomenon, law faculty candidates who have conservative views and are seeking appointments at top-ranked schools should proceed advisedly.
UPDATE: Brian Leiter points out some problems (including some of the points above) with the NYT write-up…and maybe the underlying study.