Professors’ Politics and Their Appeal as Instructors

Professors’ Politics and Their Appeal as Instructors

By Jason GierschUniversity of North Carolina at Charlotte

As more universities view students as customers and as more critics accuse universities of political bias, it is important to learn how students respond to professors’ politics. Does a politically active professor make a course more or less appealing? In this experiment, I randomly presented descriptions of course instructors to current university students and asked them to describe their appeal. Subjects expressed greater interest in professors who were politically ambiguous or whose politics matched their own. Conservative professors were more polarizing than liberal professors, and liberal students rejected conservative professors more than they preferred liberal professors. Based on these results, political neutrality is the safest bet for attracting a broad set of students, especially when a professor is conservative.

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