Kristof was worse than even I thought

I thought his claim that college faculty need to stop discriminating against conservatives was bogus. As it turns out, somebody actually looked up the sociological research he cited, and found that he misrepresented it. They even contacted the authors of the work to get their opinion, and they thought he got their work all wrong.

Nicholas Kristof fundamentally misread and misrepresented the research that he cited, a study by sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons. Because Kristof provided references and links to the paper he cited,, we can read for ourselves what conclusions the study’s authors drew from their survey of American university professors from a range of types of institutions, 2-year colleges, liberal arts colleges, religious institutions, and elite doctoral-granting universities alike.

Kristof linked to an older, unpublished version of the paper, one peer-reviewed study from the paper is readily available to anyone with a JStor account (like NY Public Library users, including presumably Kristof) and large sections of the book that Neil Gross published with Harvard University Press out of this data, Why are Professors Liberal and Why do Conservatives Care, are available online. The study authors could have been contacted for a quote. Kristof consulted none of these sources, relying instead on his shoddy reading of a complex, rich and important study. He missed their main point.

I said that college faculty tend to be more conservative than is assumed, and that the only way you can claim they’re all radical is if you’ve fallaciously inverted the meaning of the words “radical” and “conservative”. Good to see I was right.

The study authors are more sanguine, noting that the image of uniform liberalism among university professors beliefs is wrong, saying that especially in elite doctoral granting institutions, “That there is more heterogeneity of political opinion among the professoriate” than previous studies found. Almost half, 46.6% classify themselves as moderate. There are more conservatives on campus, 19.2% (again about 1-in-5), than the scary Marxist numbers Kristof quotes out of context.

If you think college faculty need to hire more Tea Party wackos and Glenn-Beck-style conspiracy theorists, you’re not asking for diversity — you’re asking for lunacy.


  1. qwints says

    I’m having trouble seeing what Neff is saying Kristoff actually got wrong. Kristoff cited Gross and Simmons for the claim that “only 2 percent of English professors are Republicans.” That result appears in the paper he cited on page 34 (although he can be criticized for liking a draft posted on a conservative advocacy site, that version of the paper does seem to be the only version of the study publically available and it is also cited on rational wiki, albeit hosted on a different site.). Neff, however, doesn’t claim that the finding differs in the published paper of the book.

    On the other hand, it seems to me that Neff misrepresents Kristoff. To start with, Kristoff cited a number of studies and surveys, so it’s misleading to say call a single study “the research that he cited.” For another example, Kristoff claimed that between between 7 and 9 percent of social science professors are Republican while 18 percent are Marxist. Saying that 19.2 of all professors are conservative doesn’t disprove the claim that more social science professors are Marxist than Republican, especially given that Kristoff acknowledges that there conservatives are represented in other disciplines. Furthermore, it seems disingenuous to claim that Kristoff is “trotting out again the false problem of liberal bias” without addressing the two studies and a survey he offered for the claim that “the scarcity of conservatives seems driven in part by discrimination.”

    What specific finding or claim did Kirstoff misrepresent?

  2. VP says

    Complaining about the lack of Republicans in colleges is like complaining about the lack of White Supremacists in organizations promoting diversity.

    Republicans have deliberately steered their party away from intellectualism of any sort, probably because their main agenda (making the rich richer) cannot stand any intellectual scrutiny.