Obsidian Wings ponders why only 6% of scientists identify as Republicans.
What I recall being much more significant were environmental issues. Although the Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act were passed under Nixon, by the time the Reagan administration rolled into town the Republicans were pretty strongly on the side of pollution and extinction. Many of you are probably too young to remember Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, but that Wikipedia article covers the high points. Basically, he was completely on the side of extractive industries (including forestry and mega-agriculture). He justified it with Christianism: God wants man to have “dominion” over the earth, and besides, Jesus was coming back any day now.
Over at Frum Forum, Nils Andresen tackles a similar question, which is why the most educated people in America are abandoning the GOP.
Under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, Republicans championed science and knowledge. But over the past 30 years, national Republicans have formed an intensifying alliance with religious conservatives more skeptical of science and knowledge. I don’t know whether discarding evolution goes against common sense; but I’m pretty sure it goes against most Ivy League-educated senses.
To advance this alliance, national Republicans have derided elite universities as dangerous and hostile places. (Sometimes with painful insincerity. The senior Bush attacked Michael Dukakis as a Massachusetts liberal formed by the “Harvard boutique.” When asked how he reconciled his attack on elites with his own Yale education, he lamely responded that Yale was not a national symbol in the way that Harvard was. Yale’s reputation, Bush said, was “so diffuse, there isn’t a symbol, I don’t think, in the Yale situation, any symbolism in it. Harvard boutique to me has the connotation of liberalism and elitism.” He went on to explain that Harvard did not refer to class, but rather was an abstract term meant to signify “a philosophical enclave.”)