Phi Beta Cons

Re: Conservatives Is Stoopid

Jay — I just wanted to plug my review (paywalled) of Gross’s book. I too picked up on a lot of condescension toward conservatives, but I also think the author makes a very serious attempt to answer the question of why liberals dominate academia. He brings up stereotypes about the Right, but in many cases he evaluates them empirically and dismisses them. Here’s what I wrote about his treatment of the IQ and personality explanations:

The most common liberal theory — that professors are liberal because smart people in general are liberal (duh!) — doesn’t hold water, either. There is a statistical connection between high intelligence and self-identification as “liberal,” but Gross’s research shows that it’s not nearly strong enough to explain the strong leftward tilt of the professoriate. And though Gross doesn’t mention it, I found a strange fact lurking in recent General Social Survey data: Americans who score very well on a vocabulary test aren’t much less likely to call themselves conservative than the general population — they’re just more likely to identify as liberal and less likely to identify as moderate. So even if intelligence can help to explain the strong presence of liberals in academia, it can’t explain the absence of conservatives.

A related (and similarly self-serving) theory some liberals present is that personality is to blame: Liberals are more scientific, more open-minded, more willing to sacrifice riches to pursue the life of the mind, and so on. Some of these stereotypes are true, but only some, and only to a limited degree. Conservatives are more distrustful of science than liberals and less open to new experiences, but they’re not much more likely to value moneymaking (and it’s moderates who value moneymaking the most). At any rate, the differences are not dramatic enough to explain more than a fraction of professors’ liberalism.

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