SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Robert Freeland

Dr. Robert Freeland, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund Recipient: Spring 2023

Project: "Political Affiliation and the Structure of Cultural Sentiments"

Dr. Freeland received a Spring 2023 Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) grant to support data collection for his study, titled "Political Affiliation and the Structure of Cultural Sentiments." With the funds, Freeland paid a provider to conduct an online survey. The outcome of the data collection is a dictionary of cultural sentiments to identify how meanings differ by political affiliation (Republican and Democrat). Freeland collected over 1,500 responses to the survey.

"Political polarization is one of the most concerning issues for students and researchers across the social sciences," explained Freeland, whose research and teaching interests span social stratification, social psychology, and quantitative methods.

The dataset resulting from Freeland's study can be used by students in their classes and for research capstone projects and student conference presentations. "Because these are quantitative sentiment ratings, it will help support our department's goal of developing their quantitative analysis and reporting skills," he added.

Freeland shared the findings from his preliminary analysis of the survey responses. "Already, analyses are showing significant differences in the meanings of the words that Republicans and Democrats use to communicate and understand the world around them. Further analysis will focus on how these differences can lead to escalating partisanship during interactions as people in each group attempt to reaffirm their own version of social reality."


About the SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at:

About the Department of Sociology
The Department of Sociology offers a Bachelor of Arts and seven Bachelor of Science concentrations (applied research methods; criminology; families and intimate relationships; health and aging; power and social change; social inequalities; and individually designed, which requires departmental approval). The department also offers minors in sociology and health and aging, plus two online graduate certificates: aging, health and society, and sociology. Learn more at

Written by Lauren Gibbs
February 8, 2024

Dr. Robert Freeland, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology
Published: Feb 8, 2024 11:00am