The Corner

Which Political Party Understands Economics Best?

That’s the question asked by George Mason University’s Dan Klein in the Wall Street Journal this morning.

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country — liberals, conservatives or libertarians? 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.

Klein’s results come from a survey of 4,835 respondents (all American adults) in which he asked them to answer eight survey questions about basic economics and then asked about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

Read the details here. It’s quite amazing. Notice that libertarians rocked this test:

The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.

The WSJ piece is based on research that Klein did a few months ago with his co-author, Columbia University psychologist Zeljka Buturovic. Among other things, they show that thinking like an economist is not correlated to going to college. They also find that it is the highest among those self-identifying as “conservative” and “libertarian,” and descends through “moderate,” “liberal,” and “progressive.” Other variables include party affiliation, religious participation, union membership, NASCAR fandom, and Walmart patronage. Their results were originally published here.

I reported on some of Klein’s research here and here.

Veronique de Rugy is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

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