Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BYU And Pepperdine Are The Most Ideologically Balanced Faculties Among The Top 50 Law Schools (2013)

Adam Bonica (Stanford), Adam S. Chilton (Chicago), Kyle Rozema (Northwestern) & Maya Sen (Harvard), The Legal Academy's Ideological Uniformity:

Political Ideology Original

We compare the ideological balance of the legal academy to the ideological balance of the legal profession. To do so, we match professors listed in the Association of American Law Schools Directory of Law Teachers and lawyers listed in the Martindale-Hubbell directory to a measure of political ideology based on political donations. We find that 15% of law professors, compared to 35% of lawyers, are conservative. After controlling for individual characteristics, however, this 20 percentage point ideological gap narrows to around 13 percentage points. We argue that this ideological uniformity marginalizes law professors, but that it may not be possible to improve the ideological balance of the legal academy without sacrificing other values.

The Volokh Conspiracy:  How ‘Ideologically Uniform’ Is the Legal Academy?, by Jonathan H. Adler (Case Western):

[The authors] find that law professors are significantly more liberal than lawyers generally. Does this matter? I’ve certainly argued that the ideological uniformity of legal academia affects teaching and scholarship (most recently here). The authors of this study suggest that it could also affect the political relevance and influence of law professors. ...

One could extend this analysis to current controversies at state universities, such as proposed measures to curtail tenure or limit the activities of legal clinics and academic centers at state universities. Appeals to “academic freedom” are less convincing when the only ones in a position to benefit from such principles sit on one side of the aisle. ...

In my opinion, the way forward begins with efforts to cultivate an appreciation of the value of differing perspectives and viewpoints and a broader recognition that ideological uniformity undermines effective legal education. The first step toward a solution is recognizing there’s a problem.

Daily Caller, Study: More Than 90 Percent Of Top 50 Law Schools Are Liberal

Legal Education, Scholarship | Permalink


I should clarify that my comment only really matters if the distribution of ideology of non-donators is different from the distribution of donators. Perhaps the underlying study makes some attempts to verify whether the "missing" professors are likely to reflect the non-missing professors in terms of ideology, or perhaps there is no good reason to suspect that the underlying populations differ (though I suspect that non-donators have less intense partisan preferences than do donators). I should also add that my informal impression of my own institution is that the chart is probably more or less accurate. I suspect we probably only have one registered Republican among our 27 or so non-retired tenure track faculty, and probably only one or two others who sometimes vote Republican. So my gut sense from personal experience is that the missing data doesn't matter all that much. But that is just a guess on my part. I still think it is probably safer analytically when presenting data like this in graph form to include the "missing" as a distinct part of the bar graph, but that is debatable of course. I also agree that the underlying empirical work being done by Bonica with his data on political donations is really fascinating.

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Apr 19, 2017 2:17:28 AM

The chart is misleading in a pretty important way. It ignores the percentage of professors who don't give (and who are thus of "unknown" ideology). Thus while the chart implies, say, that (I am guessing) 95% of Wisconsin professors are liberal, it is more accurate to say that 95% of _those professors who donate_ are liberal. If on average 40% of professors have no giving record, then the best that we know about a school like Wisconsin (or any other) is that 95% of 60% (57%) of the faculty are "liberal".

Posted by: Jason Yackee | Apr 18, 2017 7:18:14 PM

Considering how heavily coastal communities in California vote Democratic (other than Orange County), it's interesting that the faculty at Pepperdine is so much more conservative than the neighboring community.

Posted by: Left Coast | Apr 18, 2017 11:46:38 AM

I am not sure whether Brian is seriously interested in falsifying the presumption that political donations mirror voting support which mirrors ideological support....or whether he is just being polemical (or cute). But, I have seen similar studies that elicit voting support and even ideological alignment from the staff Yes, same picture.

And, kudos to Pepperdine (and BYU) because the headline is too modest. They are not simply "the most ideologically balanced", The data shows that they are the ONLY not ideologically imbalanced (to the Left).

Posted by: MG | Apr 18, 2017 11:45:38 AM

Since the overwhelming majority of law professors don't donate much to either political party, a more accurate description might be:

"The vast majority of law professors are not particularly political. Among the few who are politically committed enough to donate, democratic donors outnumber Republicans."

Posted by: Donate | Apr 18, 2017 11:30:29 AM

Determining who is liberal and who is conservative is "based on political donations." Two questions. First, how is Trump labeled for this purpose? Second, what about donations to Libertarian Party candidates -- there were no such donations?

Posted by: Jack | Apr 18, 2017 9:28:25 AM

Right, the relationship between giving money to political candidates and the political ideology of the donor might be totally random, or even inverse. It's quite possible that 85% of law professors are actually Republicans, but they just like to give money to Democrats.

Posted by: Social Scientist | Apr 18, 2017 7:49:58 AM

You mean "most balanced in terms of reported donations to political candidates." What any of this has to do with actual ideology is unknown.

Posted by: Brian | Apr 18, 2017 5:34:25 AM