Thursday, August 9, 2012

Anti-conservative discrimination in academic social psychology

Just over 37 percent of [social psychologists] 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.) ...

"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. ...

Members of a social psychologists' e-mail list were surveyed twice. (The group is not limited to American social scientists or faculty members, but about 90 percent are academics, including grad students, and more than 80 percent are Americans.) Not surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of those surveyed identified as liberal on social, foreign and economic policy, with the strongest conservative presence on economic policy. Only 6 percent described themselves as conservative over all.

The questions on willingness to discriminate against conservatives were asked in two ways: what the respondents thought they would do, and what they thought their colleagues would do. The pool included conservatives (who presumably aren't discriminating against conservatives) so the liberal response rates may be a bit higher, Inbar said.

The percentages below reflect those who gave a score of 4 or higher on a 7-point scale on how likely they would be to do something (with 4 being "somewhat" likely).

Percentages of Social Psychologists Who Would Be Biased in Various Ways
A "politically conservative perspective" by author would have a negative influence on evaluation of a paper18.6%34.2%
A "politically conservative perspective" by author would have a negative influence on evaluation of a grant proposal23.8%36.9%
Would be reluctant to extend symposium invitation to a colleague who is "politically quite conservative"14.0%29.6%
Would vote for liberal over conservative job candidate if they were equally qualified37.5%44.1%

The more liberal the survey respondents identified as being, the more likely they were to say that they would discriminate. ...

If you are wondering about the political leanings of the social psychologists who conducted the study, they are on the left. Inbar said he describes himself as "a pretty doctrinaire liberal," who volunteered for the Obama campaign in 2008 and who votes Democrat. His co-author, Joris Lammers of Tilburg, is to Inbar's left, he said.
--Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, on maintaining ideological purity. HT: Marginal Revolution