Turned up to eleven: Fair and Balanced

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Not surprisingly, the accusations of leftist-bias in the media have led the right-wing media to attack bias in academia as well. Now, I am not saying that the bias doesn't exist, just that the source of articles, being passed on by bloggers like William Quick, should not be right-wing idealogues like David Horowitz. The article in question, which cites a poll by REPUBLICAN pollster Frank Luntz (the biases of this report are never mentioned), mentions some choice percentages which seem to support the thesis that Ivy League faculty are "biased". The only one that even marginally supports the thesis is that only 3% admit to being Republicans. The other cases are that 14% support missile defense (as opposed to 70% of the general populace), and 40% support reparations for slavery (as opposed to 11% of the populace). Now, leaving aside the possibility (or likelihood) of skewed questioning on both of these issues, NEITHER IS PARTICULARLY RELEVANT TO POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION! In other words, being in favor or opposed to missile defense or reparations is not particularly relevant to being a member of either party. How do they feel about welfare reform, or tax cuts, or social security reform, or increased military spending, and on and on...We don't know, because our eminently fair reporter doesn't tell us. Looking at the poll data, we immediately see why. The survey was only responded to by 151 faculty!! Now, I am no expert, but there are eight Ivy League schools (the athletic league, at least); Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Princeton, Columbia, Dartmouth and Penn. There are a lot more than 151 faculty at these schools. Since we don't know who the survey was sent too, we must ask the question, did they cherry-pick liberal faculty?? Either that, or they got an absurdly low response rate (8% margin of error!! What crap!)
The real story of this poll, if you read the results, is that the biases of these faculty, who overwhelmingly are Democrats and voted for Gore (in the Northeast? Go figure), are lukewarm at best. They support recruiting by CIA on campus, are pro-choice, but not overwhelmingly so, are moderately less religious than their peers, and think Clinton was a great president. They wish to be associated with the ACLU (wow, free speech advocacy on a college campus? I wonder why they didn't mention that...oh yeah, it goes against the right-wing dogma that college campuses are havens of PC-ness). My favorite part of the Poll results is how some questions compare the Ivy League profs' answers to the general public, while others don't. Interestingly, in all the cases where a comparison is made, the profs' answers skew left. Does this mean that on the remaining questions, they were the same? I don't think so, but the comparison is only made for ~1/2 the sample (11/21). Why? The remaining questions are certainly applicable to the rest of the populace? Finally, science, math and engineering are NOT LISTED on the list of the areas people work in at the Universities. Seems hardly a representative sample to me...Well, I only hope that I am the only one who notices this shitty poll, but that would probably be asking too much.