That’s a good question. It’s not true in every research field; engineers and economists, for example, have far more right-wing intellectuals than other fields. But it’s true in a lot of fields of study (especially in the social sciences and humanities), and it’s an interesting truth.
Right-wingers often argue that intellectuals lean left because the university environment where they obtain their credentials contain political biases. After all, the university experience is largely funded by government funding, grants, and payment-deferred student loans; that’s quite different from the private sector’s typical pay-as-you-go pattern of market transactions, and far more left-wing about it.
Left-wingers’ theory is that left-wing ideology is a more accurate representation of reality, and therefore greater education leads people to believe what the facts actually support rather than the right-wing superstitions of their relatively ignorant past. At the very least, they’d argue, exposure to new ideas opens the mind from the narrowness of the right to the open-mindedness of the left.
Personally, I think there is truth to both perspectives. Exposure to a hundred new ideas from a hundred different cultures does open the mind in many ways, but it closes the mind to critical judgement of other cultures. This makes one less prone to irrational bias and bigotry, but also makes one more prone to moral relativism to the exclusion of rational cultural criticism. And the fiscal side of the college experience is certainly very different than the wider economy. These few new cognitive biases are not nearly so harmful as the vast array of often far more serious biases that are destroyed by a knowledge of the facts, but they are undesirable nonetheless.
College society, especially after the batchelor’s degree level, is also highly self-selected. More right-wingers will leave academia to make money based on a cost/benefit analysis. More left-wingers treat higher education itself as the measure of success, an end unto itself.
Or, anyway, that’s the level of rational analysis my current set of cognitive biases allows. I’ll keep working at it, and see which of those points endures critical analysis.


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