The American Sociologist

, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 136–153 | Cite as

Students’ Religiosity and Perceptions of Professor Bias: Some Empirical Lessons for Sociologists

  • Jeremiah B. WillsEmail author
  • Zachary W. Brewster
  • Gerald Roman NowakIII


A political mismatch between professors and a large swath of the student population has been widely documented. This mismatch is salient within sociology, where left-leaning politics are mainstream and institutionalized. Further, extant research indicates that this political mismatch leads students outside of the left-leaning mainstream to perceive that their professors are politically biased and to have diminished classroom experiences. However, studies assessing the influence of students’ religiosity, a foundational element of conservatism, on perceptions of political bias and negative classroom experiences is lacking. In response, this study analyzes survey data from a diverse sample of undergraduate students enrolled in sociology courses to explore the connection between students’ religiosity and perceptions of and subsequent reactions to professors’ political bias. Our results suggest that religiosity affects perceptions of and reactions to professors’ biases through increased skepticism towards science and perceived ideological distance from professors. This process is found to be operant only among politically conservative and moderate students. The implications of our results for sociology are discussed.


Professor bias Political ideology Religiosity Ideologica l distance Science distrust Sociology students 



The authors wish to thank David Merolla and Lawrence Nichols for helpful suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper. The authors are also grateful to their colleagues who encouraged their students to participate in this study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremiah B. Wills
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zachary W. Brewster
    • 2
  • Gerald Roman NowakIII
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political Science & SociologyQueens University of CharlotteCharlotteUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA

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