2017-2018 data on the political party affiliation of Cal Poly faculty is in, and the numbers reveal some interesting trends. Most notably, between 2013-2014 and 2017-2018, there was a 22.99% drop in the number of registered Republicans on campus (a loss of 40 individuals), while other categories received a sizable bump up such as Democrats who increased 15.78% (gain of 74 individuals), No Party Affiliation with 25.58% increase (gain of 55 individuals), and Not Registered with a 41.9% increase (a gain of 75 individuals).
Overall, these changes amounted to Republicans losing 4.37% of the total campus make-up, while Democrats gained 2.7%, No Party Affiliation gained 2.91%, and Not Registered gained 4.75%.
The increase in No Party Affiliation seems to conform the national trend of individuals moving away from identifying with the two major political parties. The increase in Not Registered is interesting, as traditionally university faculty are considered to be quite politically active. And post 2016 election, one would have assumed there would have been great interest in voting among faculty. The increase in faculty who are not registered may be a byproduct of an increase in faculty employed at Cal Poly who are not U.S. citizens (i.e., not eligible to vote in U.S. elections), or attributable to a recent increase in new faculty who have not yet registered to vote (they may have never ben registered, may still be registered at their last residence, et cetera). Future data updates will give some insight into this.
But, for now my primary interest is in the changes associated with the two major political parties in the U.S. Specifically: "what happened to all of the Republicans??" As one of the two major political parties in the nation, this is a sizable drop for an already small minority faction on campus.
A number of things are possible. Those who identified as Republicans in 2013-2014 could have retired, moved, been fired/not re-hired and been replaced with non-Republicans, or could have changed their party registration. Movement in terms of party registration mostly likely would have involved switching to "No Party Affiliation" (motives ranging from wanting to be more discrete about political beliefs, particularly since primaries in CA are open now so it isn't as important to be registered with a particular party, to a lack of alignment with the current stances of the party...but there is no way to know motive looking at numbers).
To dig deeper into this, and to explore the possibility that the number of Republicans dropped because they changed their party registration, I went back into my old data files to extract the 174 individuals identifying as Republican in 2013-2014 so I could try and find them in the 2017-2018 data (match between the two data sets). I found the following:
Before discussing these numbers, let me also present numbers from the other direction: starting in 2017-2018 and looking back to 2013-2014:
So, taken together, since 2013-2014 at the university level Cal Poly lost 101 Republicans. 83 were flat out lost (they are no longer employed at Cal Poly), and 18 were lost due to switching their party preference. But, from 2013-2014 to 2017-2018 Cal Poly gained 62 Republicans, 45 who were new hired and 17 who changed their party registration.
So, when going back to a possibility I put forward earlier in the post (which I wrote before conducting the calculations), the numbers indicate that changes due to individuals changing their party registration are negligible: 18 switched away from Republican, 17 switched to Republican...they practically cancel each other out.
It appears the main reason accounting for the loss of Republicans is the lack of replacement. At the university level, Cal Poly lost 101 Republicans over this four year period, but only gained 62--only 61.39% of the Republicans that were lost between 2013-2014 and 2017-2018 ended up being replaced by Republicans. And if we look just at the Republican faculty that are gone (83) and the new Republican faculty (45; ... so ignoring those that changed their registration) the percent is even smaller: only 54.21% of outgoing Republicans were replaced with incoming Republicans. Republicans left, possibly because they retired, because they got a new job somewhere else, or because they just weren't hired back (or were fired)*.
Why does this matter?? Looking just at this voter registration data and the trends since 2013-2104, it appears faculty are becoming more politically homogeneous. If the low replacement trend for Republicans continues, it seems clear that the number of registered Republicans among the faculty at Cal Poly will continue to shrink--Republicans will continue to become a smaller and smaller numerical minority on campus, and they are already a very small faction! The consequences this may have for teaching, research/scholarly output, collegiality among faculty, and the student experience on campus (particularly for Republican students) are not negligible.
* Now, we can't say that 45 of them were directly replaced by Republicans as many other vacancies likely occurred, so they may have replaced Democrats, filled newly created positions, or something else--we're just looking at net changes here. For example, a Republican in the Animal Science department could have retired and an individual who was hired to replace then could have ended up being Republican. Or, a Republican in the Biology department could have retired, and an individual who ended up being Republican could have been hired in the Animal Science department ... point is, I'm looking at macro university level trends, not 1-1 replacement within departments, or even within colleges. I may look at that, but if I do it will be in a later post.
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