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.