I decided to see if Jimmy Wales’ claim was verifiable. If there was a disproportionate number of liberal editors on Wikipedia, that would support the claim of liberal bias. What I discovered was far more surprising.
Wikipedians by Political Affiliation
I added the number of Wikipedians who self-identified in the political categories below. You can view these categories at Wikipedia.
With a statistical sample of 901 self-identified Wikipedians, I consolidated the numbers into this table.
I then compared the numbers to the general American population who self-identified their political affiliations at electionstudies.org in 2004.
* The Cato Institute speculates that as many as 13% of Americans hold Libertarian beliefs. However, it should be noted that The Cato Institute is run by Libertarians, and has a vested interest in these numbers!
1. Liberal and “Leftist” Wikipedians are roughly proportionate to the US population.
2. Libertarians are overwhelmingly over-represented.
3. Conservative Wikipedians are dramatically under-represented.
It appears that there aren’t too many liberals on Wikipedia so much as too few conservatives. But the real eye opener is how libertarians are drastically over-represented.
It doesn’t surprise me that Wikipedians are more likely to be libertarian. Anyone interested in open source and the democratization of knowledge is probably a bit anti-authoritarian and somewhat interested in personal responsibility. And Libertarians, like Wikipedians, are likely to be highly educated (although again, that flattering statistic is coming from the Cato institute!).
There is very little statistical information on how many Americans self-identify as libertarians. Certainly Libertarian candidates draw less than 1% of the vote at election time. But even if you take the Cato institute’s claim that 13% of Americans hold Libertarian values, I find it staggering to consider that 42% of Wikipedians self-identify as Libertarians.
Either way, it will be interesting to see if there is ever an outcry of Libertarian bias on Wikipedia!