Since the days of William Graham Sumner (1840-1910), the first American professor to teach a course entitled “Sociology,” there has never been more than a small minority of classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives working professionally in the field of sociology. Overwhelmingly, the political inclinations of sociologists have ranged from center to far left. This is true not only of the American Sociological Association’s (ASA) leadership, but also of its 13,000+ rank-and-file members. Over the years, the organization has engaged numerous times in open advocacy for leftwing political causes. For example, between 2003 and 2005, the ASA:

  • submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the University of Michigan’s affirmative-action policy;
  • passed a 2003 resolution calling for an immediate end to U.S. military action in Iraq;
  • issued a statement urging defeat of a California proposition that would have ended public agencies’ abilities to collect data on citizens’ race, ethnicity, and national origin;
  • passed a resolution opposing a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages; and
  • issued a statement condemning Harvard president Lawrence Summers for his remarks about the possibility that innate differences — rather than discrimination — may have been the cause of women’s statistical underrepresentation in the fields of science and engineering.

To determine the extent of leftwing dominance in the field of sociology, researchers Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern in 2004 sent surveys to 1,000 randomly selected ASA members. Three hundred fifty-one of those survey recipients filled out and returned their questionnaires. Among the more noteworthy findings were the following:

  • More than 85 percent of the ASA members regularly voted for political candidates representing the Democratic Party or the Green Party.
  • The Democrat-to-Republican ratio among ASA members was 16-to-1.

The Klein-Stern survey was also administered to five other social-science associations. Of the six fields surveyed, voting Democratic was most preponderant among the anthropologists and sociologists; in both those fields, the Democrat-to-Republican ratio was greater than 15-to-1. In the fields of history, political and legal philosophy, and political science, the ratio was approximately 6-to-1. The least preponderant difference was in economics, where the ratio was about 2.5-to-1.

These findings were consistent with those of a 2001 Brookings Institution survey of ASA members, which found a Democrat-to-Republican ratio of 47-to-1. In a smaller 1999 survey of sociology professors, researchers Stanley Rothman, R. Robert Lichter, and Neil Nevitte found 59 Democrats and zero Republicans. Similarly, Daniel Klein and economist Christopher Cardiff found that in the sociology departments of eleven California universities, there were 88 registered Democrats and 2 registered Republicans.

Overall, Klein and Stern found that sociologists overwhelming support (most of them strongly) economic interventions, wealth redistribution, gun control, public schooling, and antidiscrimination laws.

* Major resource: “Sociology and Classical Liberalism,” by Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern (2006).

Additional Resources:

Sociology and Classical Liberalism
By Daniel Klein and Charlotta Stern

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