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campus culture wars
Where the Professors Are Moving Right

American academics has been hurtling to the Left over the last generation and it’s unclear why. Heterodox Academy speculates that the shift has to do with generational replacement; we’ve suggested that the 1990s canon wars might have discouraged conservatives from entering the profession.

To add to the mystery, it turns out that this shift has not been evenly distributed geographically, according to new research from Samuel J. Abrams of Sarah Lawrence College. The move to the Left has been most pronounced, by far, in New England—and it has not taken place at all in the Mountain West:

The one region that bucks the national liberal trend is not the South (as some might assume) but rather the Rocky Mountain region: Idaho, Montana, Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. Here, between 1989 and 2014, the liberal to conservative professor ratio dropped to 1.5 to 1, from 2 to 1. To be sure, social science professors became marginally more liberal, with a liberal to conservative ratio rising to 3 to 1, from 1.5 to 1, but fields such as engineering and business became more conservative. (Engineering went from 27 percent conservative in 1989 to 52 percent in 2014. Business went from 26 percent conservative in 1989 to 51 percent conservative in 2014.)

It’s anyone’s guess why this region has been immune to academia’s march to the far Left. But it seems worth noting that this region has also been singularly immune to a very different kind of political extremism: Trumpism. Trump was crushed in the Rocky Mountain region, losing all the states mentioned above—often by wide margins—except Montana (after he had already clinched the nomination). Is this a coincidence? Or could it be that the same factors—say, high levels of religious observance and social cohesion—temper identity politics on both the Left and the Right?

In any case, one thing is clear: For Americans repelled by Trump’s demagoguery, but also repelled by the growing intolerance and anti-intellectualism of the academic Left, the Rocky Mountains seem like an increasingly appealing destination.

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  • DiaKrieg

    I wonder if the tradition of rugged individualism might be a factor. There is a knee jerk groupthink to trumpism and progressivism both that perhaps offends the free spirited people of the northwest.

    • Jim__L

      They probably don’t like someone so New York-y.

  • Matt B

    Engineering faculty can keep their politics out of their work and leftist ideologues would seem out of place in a serious business school, so I would expect to see balance like this nationally. Perhaps conservative professors just prefer living in the Mountain West

    • Observe&Report

      A 3 to 1 ratio of liberal to conservative professors in social science departments IS unusual, given that everywhere else conservative academics have been almost totally purged from social science departments.

  • Andrew Allison

    The problem is that today’s professors were educated by yesterday’s socialists and, despite the spectacular implosion of all things Left, are educating tomorrow’s. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the product of today’s so-called “education” is, deliberately, lacking in any critical thinking ability.

  • FriendlyGoat

    1) Utah can probably always be considered a special case because of Mormon religious influence
    2) I think there are perhaps four other subtle factors which influence the left-right divide in these mountain states. Except for Denver, the cities are smaller. Management of federal and state lands are often controversial. More people have a tendency to libertarianism when living in more wide open spaces. Gun rights are a big deal.
    3) Interestingly, I recently had occasion to read that the first five states which had women voting long before ratification of a national constitutional suffrage amendment in 1920 were these: Wyoming (as territory 1869, when admitted as state 1890), Colorado (1893), Utah and Idaho (1896) and Washington (1910). This could be a hint these states were politically “different” a long time ago.

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