Human Nature

, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 306–322 | Cite as

How Conservative Are Evolutionary Anthropologists?

A Survey of Political Attitudes
  • Henry F. LyleIII
  • Eric A. Smith


The application of evolutionary theory to human behavior has elicited a variety of critiques, some of which charge that this approach expresses or encourages conservative or reactionary political agendas. In a survey of graduate students in psychology, Tybur, Miller, and Gangestad (Human Nature, 18, 313–328, 2007) found that the political attitudes of those who use an evolutionary approach did not differ from those of other psychology grad students. Here, we present results from a directed online survey of a broad sample of graduate students in anthropology that assays political views. We found that evolutionary anthropology graduate students were very liberal in their political beliefs, overwhelmingly voted for a liberal U.S. presidential candidate in the 2008 election, and identified with liberal political parties; in this, they were almost indistinguishable from non-evolutionary anthropology students. Our results contradict the view that evolutionary anthropologists hold conservative or reactionary political views. We discuss some possible reasons for the persistence of this view in terms of the sociology of science.


Politics and science Evolutionary anthropology Political attitudes in anthropology 



We thank William Irons for suggesting that we undertake this research. Wesley Allen-Arave, Bret Beheim, Lee Cronk, Edward Hagen, Raymond Hames, John R. Hibbing, Kim Hill, Jeremy Koster, Daniel Nettle, Benjamin Purzycki, Rob Quinlan, Joshua Tybur, and Bruce Winterhalder provided helpful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript. Finally, we thank Alyssa Fitzpatrick Harlow, Samuel Kim, David Armo, and Alexandra Futran for their research assistance.


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© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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