In 1966, the University of Michigan Law School initiated an annual survey its graduating classes five and fifteen years after graduation. In 1981, with the survey of the graduates of the class of 1976 after they had been out of law school 5 years and the graduates of the class of 1966 after they been out 15 years, the survey instrument added questions about graduates’ current political views and their recollection of their political views when they began law school. In all years since, graduates have been asked to place themselves on a 7-point scale from “extremely liberal (left)” to “extremely conservative (right).” For ten years beginning in 1997, the same question about current political views was also asked of graduates 25, 35, and 45 years after graduation.
In this brief memorandum, we report the central findings from the nearly ten thousand respondents to the surveys conducted between 1997 and 2006. The findings are not particularly surprising: (1) on the whole, the longer the graduates had been out of law school the more conservative they were likely to report themselves, with the difference between the youngest and oldest graduates being particularly striking; (2) across all graduating classes, women graduates reported themselves as more liberal than their male classmates reported themselves, African-American and Hispanic graduates reported themselves as more liberal than their white classmates reported themselves, and those who majored in college in the humanities or social sciences reported themselves as more liberal than their classmates who majored in engineering, business or economics reported themselves; and (3) most graduates reported their political views as having changed very little since law school, though to the extent there was change, more people reported themselves as having become more conservative than reported themselves as having become more liberal.
Chambers, David L., "Political Views of Graduates of University of Michigan Law School, Classes of 1952-2001" (2019). Bibliography of Research Using UMLS Alumni Survey Data. 38.