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Law Professors Are Donkeys?

Or are they Donklephants at heart?

An interesting study that was just released suggests that most law professors are Democrats.

Here are some reactions around the blogosphere:

First, Ann Althouse:

For what it’s worth, I haven’t given any political contributions in a while, but when I did, it was to Democrats â€â€? mostly Russ Feingold. I’m actually surprised by how many lawprofs â€â€? 15% â€â€? the study found had contributed to Republicans.

Then, Jim Lindgren from The Volokh Conspiracy:

Now consider this thought experiment: [Imagine that in 1988 all but one of the Harvard Law faculty had favored Bush1 over Dukakis. And] Imagine that over the same period of a quarter century [mid 1970s through early 2000s], the Harvard Law School had hired at the entry-level only those who leaned Republican. Imagine how different the Harvard Law School would be, how different legal education would be, how different the government (and public policy) would be, populated with lawyers trained by an overwhelmingly Republican Harvard faculty. Somehow I think it would be a different world.

And finally, Brian Leiter calls the whole study into question. The first little bit that’s capitalized is the title of the post:

Yet Another Meaningless Study of Professor Donations to Political Parties…by conservative John McGinnis at Northwestern (which, speaking of political bias, is a school now fairly notorious for only hiring or making offers to public law scholars on the right) and described here. Since fully two-thirds of law faculty at the 21 schools surveyed do not contribute to political candidates, the study, as presented in The Times, tells us quite close to nothing.

After all, we all knew before this article that the legal academy, like the entire academy, was more liberal than the population at large. So the interesting question concerned proportions. But if only one-third of faculty even donate to political candidates, then the fact that 70-90% of them donate to Democrats tells us nothing concrete unless (1) we assume that likelihood of donating to political candidates was evenly distributed across political sympathies (which seems unlikely to be true for a whole host of obvious reasons), and (2) we assume that, even among the 1/3rd who do donate, choice of whether to support a “Democrat” or “Republican” tracks political ideology of faculty, which also seems unlikely to be true (after all, there are still liberal Republicans, and many very conservative Democrats; there are libertarian faculty who won’t support theocratic, anti-intellectual Republicans; there are social democrats and socialists who will support Democrats as the lesser of two evils; and so on).

(Made possible by: memeorandum)

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  • Meredith

    Of course, it depends on what area of the country you are in . . .

    I would guess, and this is just a WILD guess, that there are more conservative law professors, say – in the state of Missouri, than there are in “blue” states.

    I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to reach a conclusion on the basis of 1 study. For every 1 study that says one thing, you can usually find another that says the opposite.

  • Justin Gardner

    I think another wild guess would be that most people who stay in academia are more likely to be more liberal than the mainstream. And why not? If this guess is correct, then it only reasons that those who have jobs in higher education, where the norm is much more liberal than the rest of the world, would be more likely to identify with that norm.

    However, the point wasn’t to really reach any solid conclusions. The point was really merely to discuss and show what others think about the study. I agree that more information is needed. I’m sure we’ll see more on this sooner rather than later.