Portrait of the artist as an academic

January 2, 1998

Are you a regular drinker, a smoker, a pet owner, and a loyal member of the Labour party? If so, you are probably an artist or a philosopher.

Or do you dislike cigarettes, love your job, enjoy nights in with your long-term partner, and vote Liberal Democrat? In that case, the chances are you are a chemist or physicist.

Such generalisations have gained an air of authority, thanks to a survey of the lifestyles and attitudes of academics conducted at Southampton University. A hundred academics from nine departments revealed some of the less researched and more personal aspects of their lives.

Sociologist David Pearson, who has moved from Southampton to the University of Wales, Cardiff, found academics in general conformed to stereotypes and there were consistent preferences and attitudes within departments.

Historians showed a notable interest in team sports, especially cricket and football. Social scientists were more inclined to reading and eating than football.

Music was a popular pastime, with Mozart the academics' number one composer. Popular music tastes focused on the 1970s and 1980s, from Dire Straits to the Pet Shop Boys. Regular drinking was common, with artists the most likely to be found in the pub and economists the least likely to indulge. Artists were also the biggest smokers, while not one scientist responding to the survey smoked.

On politics, the predictable conclusion was that an overwhelming majority supported Labour, with just 2 per cent voting Conservative. Artists were the most ardent Labour supporters, while academics working in economics and politics were the most likely to be floating voters.

Scientists are mostly in long-term relationships, and nearly all physicists were in their first marriage. But almost two-thirds of academics in the English department were divorced, separated or single.

Over a third of artists and a quarter of scientists owned pets, with cats the most popular choice of animal. Social scientists were least likely to be pet owners.

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