The latest Reason-Rupe poll of Californians found 53 percent believe California public university professors present topics in the classroom in a politically biased way, 24 percent thought these university professors taught in a politically balanced manner.
Among the majority of California who believe the state’s public higher education system promotes political bias, 68 percent said it was a liberal bias while 8 percent thought it was a conservative bias. A fifth said “some other kind of bias” was taught in public university classrooms.
Most telling is that among the age cohort most likely attending California public colleges, 66 percent of 18-24 year-olds believe there is political bias taught in the classroom. Among those who perceive bias, 53 percent say it’s a liberal bias and 5 percent say it’s a conservative bias; 39 percent say its some other kind of bias. Although majorities of nearly every other age cohort also perceive a political bias, they are less likely than the college-age cohort.
Interestingly the more education respondents’ attain, the less likely they are to report political bias in public classrooms. It’s unclear whether this is a result of greater experience at public universities, or individuals’ conforming their values to their environment. For instance, among those with post-graduate degrees, 59 percent are Democratic or lead Democratic compared to 37 percent who are Republican or lean Republican.
Perceptions of political bias at California’s public campuses also vary by respondents’ own political beliefs. For instance, a plurality (43 percent) of self identified liberals do not believe there is political bias in CA university classrooms, but 82 percent of self identified conservatives think there is bias. Eighty-two percent of Republicans and 54 percent of Independents agree, compared to 37 percent of Democrats.
Majorities of Caucasian, African-American, and Latino respondents all perceive political bias, but the kind of bias they detect varies widely. Among African-Americans, 19 percent perceive a liberal bias, 23 percent find a conservative bias, and 54 percent detect some other kind of bias. However, 47 percent of Latinos find a liberal bias, 14 percent see a conservative bias, and 33 percent perceive some other kind of bias. Caucasians are most likely to find a liberal bias (81 percent), while 6 percent find a conservative bias, and 10 percent say some other kind of bias.
These findings of potential political bias at publicly funded universities are particularly troubling given higher education’s ballooning costs and receding state revenue that led to the passage of Prop 30 raising additional taxes to help fund education.