The question What research explains political attitudes of academics? has attracted a lot of debate and undergone quite some change since it was posted. In particular, some of the answers do not fit the question (anymore). How shall we proceed with it?

This Question

In an answer, please propose how we should proceed with this question:

  • Should it be closed?
  • Should it stay open?
  • Should it be changed in a specific manner?
  • How shall we deal with answers that do not address the question in its current form?
  • How shall we deal with opinionated answers (and comments)?
  • 2
    How do you feel about moving it to Skeptics? They're much better suited for dealing with controversial topics like this, as they have much stricter expectations on the form and content of answers, and are more heavily moderated to enforce it. I'm a little conflicted on exactly how on-topic they would receive it as being. Even in its current form it is not particularly specific, but it is decidedly notable, and there do appear to be serious scientific studies regarding the extent of liberal attitudes in academia and the reasons for it. May 22, 2018 at 1:17
  • 4
    @zibadawatimmy: For Skeptics, it would need to have a specific claim (e.g., “academics are more liberal because of asbestos in university buildings”). This question, however, asks for reasons.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    May 22, 2018 at 5:25

4 Answers 4


I think the question is a good fit for this site in its current state as it does not solicit mere opinions and tries not to incite political debates.

However, given the inevitable attraction of political debate, the question shall be equipped with a notice that all answers not providing a reference will be deleted without warning (and are fair game for not-an-answer flags) and the same applies to political discussion in the comments. As a rule of thumb, it should not be possible to deduce the political opinion of the author from a post.

This means that some existing answers, including upvoted ones, need to be deleted, but they are not valid answers to any question that is suited for our site (and thus “had it coming”). Regarding Maarten Buis’ highly upvoted answer in particular, it mainly builds upon the clarification of liberalism, which may be interesting, but not the point of our site.

  • I agree with this; my rather extensive edits were meant to refocus the question on facts and depoliticize it. However, is there precedence for a notice that all answers not providing a reference will be deleted or would that be a first? May 21, 2018 at 20:38
  • @henning: Well, technically these are answers not addressing the question (in its current state) even without specific meta consensus. It may very well be a first for this site, but I remember several questions from other Stack Exchange sites with a similar notice, not to mention Skeptics, where this is the essence of the site. If there weren’t any existing answers, I wouldn’t hesitate to slap such a notice on a post that asks specifically for reference but is prone to get answers without references.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    May 21, 2018 at 20:42
  • I also agree. I think it's a tough question though that will not have one answer unless there is some synthesis of the literature on this topic. Hence I think Maarten Buis' answer is part of an answer and should remain. May 21, 2018 at 20:55
  • 2
    I think it should be de-genericized and explicitly focused on the US and on Democrats/Republicans, rather than using vague terms that are confusing. May 21, 2018 at 22:49
  • @AzorAhai: That already happened, didn’t it?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    May 22, 2018 at 5:27
  • 1
    The new version of the question is clearer and probably more closely represents the original intend of the OP. That makes my answer an ill fit, and I am fine with that. May 22, 2018 at 7:22
  • 3
    @Wrzlprmft It hasn't, as I understand, the research had to do with registered Democrats vs. Republicans, not self-identified liberals/conservatives. Focusing on party registration would remove the arguing over liberalism in the answers/comments (and I don't really agree with the OPs brief description of the two ideologies anyway). May 22, 2018 at 16:19
  • As a lurker, I don't have a right to post an answer to this. It's a shame because I had gathered causal evidence from three different strands. I'm not going to try to gain reputation because other questions here are so different from this one. Perhaps I can comment the references I had in mind there, and someone builds an answer out of that?
    – FooBar
    Jun 1, 2018 at 12:37

The question, as it is currently phrased, just wants to know about the existence of "serious" research into the (alleged) phenomenon. Such a question is easily resolved with a google search, as there is an entire wiki page dedicated to the topic. This page is heavily sourced with thirty references. This includes several analyses of why the phenomenon occurs. This is more than sufficient for anyone to resolve the question immediately at hand.

I don't think questions which boil down to "provide me a list of things readily obtained by googling or even just wikipedia" is a suitable question anywhere on the Stack Exchange. It definitely demonstrates a lack of research effort, which is one of the default reasons for down-voting a question.

The attention the question has received is not because it asks a good question which admits a quality answer, but because it asks a trivially answered question on a contentious topic.

  • 5
    Just that something can be easily found on Google or so doesn’t make a question unsuited for this site, after all, we aspire to be what is found on Google. It’s a valid reason to downvote. Also, at first glance, distilling the references on reason from that Wikipedia article may involve some effort.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    May 22, 2018 at 5:33
  • I think that whether or not a search engine returns any pertinent information is less useful as a metric than whether the answer to a question requires compiling that information in a way which is nonintuitive. May 24, 2018 at 22:29

Another possibility is the following:

  1. Revert the question to the original state and keep it closed with the initial answers.
  2. Invite the OP to ask a new question according to the latest edited version.
  3. If the OP is not interested in asking the edited question, someone who edited it can go on asking.

There is an additional problem with this question. If you follow the citations to the base article, it is poorly done. I do not believe it was peer reviewed and the editor is a co-author. While it may be factually true, there was much about it that was concerning. I had sufficient concerns to be unsure of the veracity of the article itself. It read as a disguised tool for polemics.

If the question is reopened, there should be a direct link to the underlying article so that others could read it. I would tend not to reopen the question because the underlying article is suspect.

It is true from other research that academics are more liberal than others, but it also matters to be careful as to what material is cited to begin the discussion.

  • 1
    And what do you conclude from this for the question at hand?
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    May 22, 2018 at 20:13

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