Political Science Now

Professor Favorability and Student Perceptions of Professor Ideology

Professor Favorability and Student Perceptions of Professor Ideology

by Travis Braidwood, Texas A&M University, Kingsville and Jacob Ausderan, Arkansas State University

Academia has become an increasingly common political target, particularly the institution of academic tenure, which many conservative politicians accuse of helping to perpetuate the ideological indoctrination of students. This study addresses these concerns by assessing students’ perceptions of professors’ ideology. Specifically, we examine the link between student ideology, professor favorability, and perceptions of professors’ ideology. By employing an original survey instrument we find that students engage in projections. Rather than forming perceptions of their professors’ political views based on their professors’ actual positions, students tend to assign their own ideology to their professor based on the extent to which they like their professor. This should bring a degree of solace to those concerned that the university setting is an enclave of like-mindedness. On the contrary, it appears professors are first subjected to evaluations from students, which then condition attitude formation about professors’ ideology. It appears the best method of countering the claims of ideological coercion would be to promote objectivity from professors while in the classroom, while simultaneously encouraging professors to endeavor to improve the quality of their instruction.

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PS: Political Science & Politics / Volume 50, Issue 2 / April 2017