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September 12, 2023

Spreading Blue Contagion in Red America

College towns across the country are threatening to turn rural America purple.

Back in October 2016, Econ Journal Watch published a study of 40 leading universities in the country, seeking to ascertain the political makeup of these schools’ faculties. What the study found in general didn’t surprise anyone — faculties were weighted heavily Democrat. What it means today is that our cities and states are changing.

Of 7,243 professors polled, 3,623 were Democrats while just 314 were Republicans. That’s a ratio of nearly 12:1. When it came to field of study, the faculty disparity was in some cases even more significant. History departments, for example, showed the most extreme ratio of more than 33:1 Democrat. But even in the field where conservative professors had the highest representation, they were still outnumbered nearly 5:1.

When it came to individual schools, those in the Ivy League had a much higher disparity in favor of Democrats. Columbia and Princeton both showed 30:1 ratios in favor of leftists. Even schools widely considered as more conservative still had a professor ratio that leaned Democrat. For example, Pepperdine University’s faculty had 1.2 Democrats for every Republican.

When broken down by age demographic, those schools with a 30:1 ratio favoring leftists also held a 10:1 Democrat ratio for professors over the age of 65, which jumped to 22.7:1 for faculty under the age of 36. In other words, the leftist trend is only getting more pronounced.

Heritage Foundation fellow Kim R. Holmes gave several reasons for the heavily one-sided political bent within faculty at these schools, noting that there has been an increase in the number of humanities majors — such as Gender Studies — whose very subject matter is antithetical to conservative views. This means that these departments will only be filled by professors on the Left.

Holmes also pointed out that the sample of 40 universities only represents a fraction of the total number of schools across the country. Fortunately, there are a large number of smaller, often religious-affiliated schools whose faculty members hold to a strong ideologically conservative perspective.

That said, Holmes observed, “If the culture at large neither cares about morality anymore and, on top of that, the education is being cheapened, it’s no longer about trying to teach people to think critically but about trying to indoctrinate them to a certain point of view.” He added, “The American public over time is going to decline in the ability to be self-governing, and, ultimately, that’s a threat to democracy.” He made that observation nearly seven years ago, and unfortunately it has only gotten worse.

This “bluing” of America’s halls of higher education is increasingly resulting in a bluing of the regions of political landscape in red states where these universities are found. It’s almost inevitable that in college towns across the country, where the university is the primary employer, those towns trend blue.

The Spectator’s Teresa Mull observes how State College in the heart of rural Pennsylvania, where Penn State University is located, is a bright blue spot in the midst of a deep-red region of the state. The leftist bent of State College has everything to do with the university. With the lion’s share of faculty leaning left and effectively indoctrinating the student body to likewise lean left, the result is a spreading blue contagion in an otherwise conservative region.

This phenomenon is by no means unique to State College. Take a look at the 2020 election map by county and it quickly becomes apparent that this bluing effect is taking place all over the country. For example, amongst a sea of red counties in Georgia, Clarke County sticks out bright blue, as it went for Joe Biden over Donald Trump 70.1% to 28.1%. Why is that? Well, Clarke County happens to be where the college town of Athens is located, the home of the University of Georgia.

In deep-red Montana, Gallatin County and Missoula County both went for Biden over Trump. Those counties happen to be the locations for the Treasure State’s two largest universities, Montana State University and the University of Montana. The universities are not only major employers in the towns of Bozeman and Missoula, but over the years, they have served to increase the population of these regions with graduates who have been heavily influenced by leftist political ideology.

One would be hard-pressed to find any pockets within Blue America where conservative schools have the reverse impact on the politics of the regions in which they exist. There are certainly small schools across the country doing excellent work, but politics is a numbers game, and at this point the Democrats are dominating America’s higher education institutions. The future trickle-down impact of that dominance is difficult to overestimate.

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