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The Ivy League Left

A new study shows that Ivy League professors are just as radical as you would expect.

11:01 PM, Jan 16, 2002 • By LEE BOCKHORN
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IT SEEMS that conservative provocateur David Horowitz, ever willing to pee in the punch bowl of American academia, has done it again. Horowitz--who, among other things, heads up the Los Angeles-based Center for the Study of Popular Culture--had pollster Frank Luntz survey Ivy League humanities professors last November to assess their political views and compare them to the views of the American people overall. The results, which were released last week, were not surprising to those of us who bother worrying about such things.

A few choice examples of what Luntz found:

-Of those professors polled who voted in the 2000 election, 84 percent voted for Al Gore, 6 percent voted for Ralph Nader, and 9 percent voted for George W. Bush.

-When asked for their party affiliation, 57 percent chose Democrat, and 3 percent chose Republican. (Among the general public, the numbers are pretty even: 37 percent choose Republican, 34 percent Democrat.)

-When asked to name the best U.S. president of the past 40 years, "all things considered," the professors' top four responses were: Clinton (26 percent), Kennedy (17 percent), Johnson (15 percent) and Carter (13 percent). Ronald Reagan came in fifth, at 4 percent.

-Forty percent of the professors expressed support for paying slavery reparations to blacks, while just 11 percent of the general public supported reparations in another recent poll.

-When asked whether the government should spend the money required for research and development of a missile defense system, the professors favored not spending the money, by a margin of 74 to 14 percent. In an October 2001 Gallup poll, Americans favored spending the money for missile defense, 70 to 26 percent.

-When presented with the following statement--"If the federal budget has a surplus in any given year, this money should be returned to taxpayers in the form of a tax cut"--80 percent disagreed (26 percent "somewhat," 54 percent "strongly"), and just 13 percent agreed.

There were a few pleasant surprises. For example, 68 percent said they "strongly" or "somewhat" support CIA recruitment on campus, and 71 percent (33 percent "strongly," 38 percent "somewhat") support the presence of ROTC programs (though it's fair to suspect these numbers might have been different pre-September 11).

Now, even while duly noting all the usual caveats regarding surveys like this--the tiny size of the sample, the absence of professors from departments whose faculties usually don't tilt so far to the left (i.e., hard sciences and engineering), etc.--the poll results are pretty damning for those who would still deny that professors at America's most prestigious universities are, on balance, somewhat to the left of Che Guevara.

Luntz's results certainly don't surprise me; I spent my undergraduate years on one of the most P.C. campuses in America, so I've seen the leftward tilt among professors first-hand, and it disgusts me as much as anyone. But perhaps it's a sign of how entrenched the Left is in American higher education that even I find it difficult to get too worked up over these poll numbers. Everyone knows by now that America's elite universities are the bluest precincts of the liberal "Blue America" we've heard so much about since the 2000 election.

Fortunately, it's also becoming apparent, even to those who don't count themselves in the conservative edu-crisis camp, that these supposedly elite universities are mere shadows of their former selves. As academic institutions, no one really takes Harvard or Princeton or Yale as seriously as they did, say, fifty years ago--especially in light of such embarrassments as the recent brouhaha at Harvard over Cornel West and the school's notorious grade inflation problem. Today, students who still choose to attend these schools do so as much for the social connections a degree from Harvard or Yale promises as they do for the intrinsic value of an Ivy League education.

And based on the patriotic reaction of most students to the events of September 11 and our current war on terrorism, it's not clear that these liberal professors are having quite the effect that critics like Horowitz fear. As David Brooks noted in a widely-discussed piece he wrote last year for the Atlantic, most students today are so apolitical that whatever radical propagandizing their professors are doing doesn't seem to be rubbing off on them. They may be turning into relativists, but they're not turning into socialists.

Lee Bockhorn is associate editor at The Weekly Standard.