Nearly three-quarters of faculty members at U.S. colleges and universities describe themselves as liberals, and at elite schools, the proportion is 87 percent, a survey has found.
What's more, half say they are Democrats and 51 percent indicate they seldom or never attend church, according to the survey, published in the March issue of the online political journal Forum.
"You would expect the majority of English literature and sociology professors to be liberals, but our survey found that 66 percent of those in physics and 64 percent of those in chemistry are liberals," said S. Robert Lichter, a communications professor at George Mason University and an author of the study.
In English literature, 88 percent are liberals and 3 percent are conservative, the survey found.
"And in sociology, 59 percent said they are Democrats and 0 percent said they are Republicans," said Mr. Lichter, who also heads the Center for Media and Public Affairs.
In addition, more than two-thirds of faculty members surveyed say they either strongly (44 percent) or somewhat agree (23 percent) that a "homosexual lifestyle" is acceptable. About 84 percent say they support abortion rights.
The survey, based on data from the 1999 North American Academic Study Survey, questioned 1,643 teachers at 183 four-year higher-education institutions nationwide.
It also found that 15 percent of college faculty members overall consider themselves conservative and 11 percent say they are Republicans. Fewer than a third (31 percent) describe themselves as regular churchgoers.
The findings were compiled by Mr. Lichter, in collaboration with Stanley Rothman and Neil Nevitte. Mr. Rothman, the study's director, is a retired political science professor at Smith College. Mr. Nevitte is a political science professor at the University of Toronto.
Said Mr. Lichter: "This is the richest lure of information on faculty ideology in 20 years. And this is the first study that statistically proves bias [against conservatives] in the hiring and promotion of faculty members."
Mr. Rothman agreed. He said the survey "clearly showed" that faculty members who are "conservative, religious and female are less likely to get good jobs" on college campuses and be promoted than other women.
"Republicans get worse jobs than Democrats," Mr. Lichter said.
The ideological shift to the left among college faculty has become much more pronounced in the past 20 years. In a 1984 survey by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 39 percent of faculty said they were liberals.
Peter Sprigg, senior director of policy studies for the Family Research Council, said the study proves that "American academia is overwhelmingly dominated by liberal secularists."
He said it's time they engage in real "diversity" and hire faculty members who reflect the values and "conservatism of Americans at large."