|Survey Says: Liberals Stingier, Stupider Than Conservatives|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, June 10 2010
We’re all familiar with the mainstream media and popular culture myth: conservatives are stingy, ignorant knuckle-draggers, whereas liberals are enlightened societal benefactors.
Now, we have yet another survey demonstrating the cold reality that the opposite is true.
Several months ago, we noted an independent Pew Research survey released October 14, 2009 entitled “What Does the Public Know?” Included in that study was a section labeled “Partisan Knowledge Gap,” which asked a series of twelve knowledge questions and compared the scores of Republicans, Democrats and Independents. The questions centered on such matters as identifying the current Federal Reserve Chairman, the current unemployment rate and the issue to which “cap and trade” relates.
The startling Pew survey results would surely trigger a terrified expression even on the Botoxed faces of Senator John Kerry or actress Julia Roberts, who once stated that, “‘Republican’ comes in the dictionary just after ‘reptile’ and just above ‘repugnant.’”
Republicans outscored Democrats on fully ten of the twelve Pew questions, with one tie. On only one question of twelve did Democrats outscore Republicans, and even then only by a 67% to 62% margin. (For the record, Republicans also outscored Independents on six of twelve questions, with one tie and five on which Independents outperformed Republicans.)
Unsurprisingly, Pew attempted to sugarcoat the lopsided results under the phrase “no partisan differences on knowledge of health reform, but Reps more aware in other areas.” They wouldn’t want to offend Brian Williams or Katie Couric, you know.
This week, we received confirmation that the Pew survey results were no anomaly.
In a June 8 Wall Street Journal commentary entitled “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?,” George Mason University economics professor Daniel B. Klein bluntly states, “according to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.”
Professor Klein, along with Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic, surveyed 4,835 American adults on eight questions covering fundamental economic principles. Those questions covered such issues as the impact of construction restrictions on housing prices, changes in the standard of living over the past thirty years, the impact of free trade on employment and what defines a “monopoly.” For purposes of ideological classification, respondents were divided into six categories: very conservative, conservative, libertarian, moderate, liberal or progressive/very liberal.
To be charitable, Klein and Buturovic even decided to grade only against flatly incorrect answers. Thus, “not sure” responses for those who considered the questions ambiguous or arguable were not penalized for their ambivalent responses.
The results might again come as a shock to anyone confined to mainstream media sources, but they shouldn’t surprise those of us who actually pay attention. Those identified as “very conservative” averaged 1.30 incorrect responses, “libertarians” were incorrect on 1.38 and “conservatives” averaged 1.67. In sharp contrast, “moderates” were incorrect on an average of 3.67 questions, “liberals” incorrect on 4.69 and “progressive/very liberal” respondents were incorrect on 5.26 of 8 questions.
As succinctly summarized by Professor Klein, “Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well, but the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.”
Klein and Buturovic also divided respondents by political party affiliation, and the results matched the Pew survey from October. According to Klein, “those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.”
So conservatives are more informed than liberals, but aren’t liberals still kinder than conservatives?
In May 2008, a Gallup poll of 1,200 Americans confirmed once again that those who self-identify as “conservative” or “very conservative” contributed 56% of total charitable donations, despite constituting only 42% of the population. Those who self-identified as “liberal” or “very liberal,” in contrast, constituted 29% of the population but made only 7% of donations. Notably, these results were independent of income level and religious affiliation, as those placing themselves on the right of the political spectrum donated a higher percentage of their income than those on the left.
Distorted stereotypes die hard, but the word is getting out: conservatives are more informed and more charitable.
Somebody sneak that into Obama’s teleprompter feed.
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