From John Ray's shorter notes
March 21, 2017
WHY IS ACADEME STRONGLY LEFTIST?
I have already written at length on that question but some new data have just come in from England that add some extra information. And it is based on very good sampling so has considerable authority. I present the findings in two excerpts below. As one might expect, there have been some furious but quite addled Leftist responses to this research. The author replies here and here
Academics are hugely Left-leaning. Is it because they have higher IQs?
One explanation that has been put forward to explain the overrepresentation of individuals with left-wing and liberal views in academia is that they tend to have higher intelligence. The theory is that academic advancement requires very high intelligence, and since few individuals with right-wing and conservative views possess very high intelligence, such individuals are comparatively scarce within the academy (Solon 2014; Solon 2015; Charlton 2009; Gross 2013).
Several recent studies from the US, where the academy also has a sizable left-liberal skew, have concluded that intelligence does not contribute much to explaining the tilt (Gross & Fosse 2012; Gross 2013; Fosse et al. 2014). On the other hand, using a slightly different method, Carl (2015b) found that intelligence may account for more than fferent method, Carl (2015b) found that intelligence may account for more than half of the overrepresentation of socially liberal views, but may not account for any of the overrepresentation of economically left-wing views. His finding is consistent with evidence that cognitive ability is positively related to both socially liberal beliefs and at least some measures of economically right-wing beliefs (Carl 2015a).
Unfortunately, there do not appear to have been any surveys of British academics asking about specific policy issues, either economic (e.g., nationalisation of industry) or social (e.g., immigration). Only the distribution of party support among academics is available, which as noted above points to an overrepresentation of both left-wing views and liberal views.
To see whether intelligence contributes to explaining the left-liberal skew of party support among academics, I calculated the distribution of party support for individuals within the top 5% of IQ, using data from the Understanding Society survey. This is shown in Table 3, along with the distribution of party affiliation within the general population and among academics, also calculated from the Understanding Society data.
Note that the distribution within the general population differs from the outcome of the general election; this is probably due to the phrasing of the question posed in Understanding Society, to the sample being slightly unrepresentative, to the timing of the data collection, and to differential turnout by party.
However, what is of primary interest is the comparison between the figures for the general population and those for the top 5% of IQ, which were both calculated from the same data.
Conservative supporters are about as well represented within the top 5% of IQ as they are within the general population, Labour supporters are slightly underrepresented, UKIP supporters are underrepresented, Lib Dem supporters are overrepresented, and Green supporters are overrepresented. Overall, as Figure 2 illustrates, the distribution of left/right orientation within the top 5% of IQ is relatively similar to the distribution within the general population.
While intelligence may account for some of the underrepresentation of UKIP supporters among academics, and some of the overrepresentation of Green supporters (Deary et al. 2008), it cannot account for the substantial underrepresentation of Conservative supporters. To the extent that the Conservatives are a less socially conservative party than UKIP, the figures in Table 3 are consistent with Carl’s (2015b) finding that intelligence may contribute to explaining the underrepresentation of socially conservative views in American academia, but not necessarily the underrepresentation of economically right-wing views.
Somewhat surprising is the relative scarcity of Lib Dem supporters among academics, given their overrepresentation within the top 5% of IQ. This may be attributable to the fact that, as noted above, the Lib Dem party was until recently dominated by its classically liberal wing, which espoused comparatively more right-wing policies, which may not have been appealing to academics. On the other hand, it may simply be due to sampling error.
If it's not a higher IQ that makes you an academic, is it a different personality?
The excerpt below if from the same study as excerpted above but does, I think, require some comment. The concept of "Openness to Experience" first became popular in the '80s. But while the name was new, the concept was not. The prior concept of "sensation seeking" was very similar and was based on a very similar set of questions. The major difference is that "Openness to Experience" sounds better than "sensation seeking".
As it happens I did a study of "sensation seeking" that appeared in 1984. And my findings were similar to those below. Leftists were sensation seekers. But the "spin" I put on the findings was quite different. I portrayed Leftists as emptyheaded seekers of novelty for novelty's sake. I was able to justify that by pointing to something you would not expect: That Leftists even sought the novelties provided by the consumer society. Leftists normally mock the consumer society but they still like the novelties it provides. So they REALLY like new things.
My data was both psychometrically valid and drawn from a random population sample so the findings were methodolgically very strong, stronger than most work in the field.
So I think I have succeeded in showing that Leftists are "neophiliacs" -- shallow, restless, discontented people who seek change and the new for its own sake. I know of no subsequent research which undermies that conclusion but would be delighted to hear of any that purports to do so
Such people are attracted to academe because academe is basically a novelty factory. Research is designed to uncover new information and understanding about something and it is one's prowess in finding out new things that gets you published and thus advanced in your career. Academics are always inventing new (and often stupid) theories about all sorts of things and trying to find or produce new data in support of such theories. It is a great place for restless speculation about the world to come and the world that could be
Another explanation that has been put forward to explain the overrepresentation of individuals with left-wing and liberal views in academia is that they tend to score higher on the personality trait openness to experience (Duarte et al. 2014).
Openness to experience, or just openness, is one of the five traits postulated by the fivefactor model of personality. People high on openness are more artistic, creative and intellectually curious, and tend to prefer novelty and variety over familiarity and sameness. As a consequence, they may be predisposed toward intellectually stimulating careers, such as academia (McCrae 1996; Woessner & Kelly-Woessner 2009).
At the same time, evidence from a variety of countries indicates that individuals high on openness are more likely to support left-wing and liberal parties (Gerber et al. 2011; Schoen & Schumann 2007; Ackermann et al. 2016). However, to the author’s knowledge, no direct evidence that openness predicts left-liberal views within the right tail of intelligence—i.e., the sub-population from which academics are selected—has been presented in the scholarly literature.
To see whether openness contributes to explaining the left-liberal skew of party support among academics, I calculated the distribution of party support for individuals within the top 5% of IQ and the top 20% of openness, and for those within the top 5% of IQ and the bottom 20% of openness, using data from the Understanding Society survey. This is shown in Table 4, along with the distribution of party support among academics.
Within the top 5% of IQ, Labour supporters, Lib Dem supporters and Green supporters are all better represented within the top 20% of openness than within the bottom 20% of openness; by contrast, Conservative supporters are better represented within the bottom 20% of openness.
Unexpectedly, UKIP supporters are better represented within the top 20% of openness, but this is probably attributable to sampling error.
Overall, as Figure 3 illustrates, the distribution of left/right orientation within the top 5% of IQ and the top 20% of openness is much closer to the distribution among academics than is the distribution within the top 5% of IQ and the bottom 20% of openness.
Of course, the top and bottom quintiles of openness are somewhat arbitrary categories; they were chosen based on a trade-off between extremity of contrast and availability of observations.
To gauge the association between openness and party support more precisely, Table 5 displays estimates from linear probability models of support for major right-wing and left-wing parties within the top 5% of IQ. The estimates in the first and second columns imply that, for each one standard deviation increase in openness, the probability that an individual supports a major right-wing party, rather than any other party, decreases by 8–9 percentage points.
The estimates in the third and fourth columns imply that, for each one standard deviation increase in openness, the probability that an individual supports a major left-wing party, rather than any other party, increases by 8 percentage points. Statistically controlling for the respondent’s age, gender and race does not appear to affect the estimates.
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