Kersten Debunked

I've talked about Kathern Kersten's op-ed about campus liberalism a few times (Lazy Friday Links, Nick Mark on Katherine Kersten, For my loyal readers). Already, it's come out that the study she based her op-ed on was funded by David Horowitz's conservative think tank, Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

Now, it turns out the numbers are deeply flawed by the methodology used. Independents were ignored, Libertarians were grouped with Republicans as "Right", and the faculty surveyed were almost exclusively from the liberal arts departments (especially Women's Studies). Martin Plissner reports in Flunking Statistics (The American Prospect, December 30th):

The findings look pretty compelling -- but not when you look at them closely. In the University of Texas sample, for example, 28 of the 94 teachers came from women's studies -- not exactly a highlight of any school's core curriculum or a likely cross section of its faculty. At the same time, none of the 94 was from the university's huge schools of engineering, business, law or medicine -- or from any of the sciences...The methodology employed is similarly slapdash at the other chosen campuses. Harvard's faculty of more than 2,000 is represented by 52 members from just three academic disciplines, all in the social sciences. More than half of the University of California, Los Angeles sample comes from just two disciplines: history and, once again, women's studies.

But as Plissner points out, it probably doesn't matter anyway. The spin point is out there. Who are we to question?