Phi Beta Cons

Red Meat

We know their scholarship is worthless. But could it be that tenured radicals are so bad at proselytizing that their efforts to indocrinate actually backfire? Here’s the always-interesting Arthur Brooks, in today’s WSJ (no free link):

When it comes to politics, people from conservative families follow their parents, not their professors.

The most recent evidence on this subject comes from the mid-1990s, in the University of Michigan’s National Election Studies. These survey data uncover two facts. First, people who go to college are more likely to vote Republican than those who don’t go to college. Adults 25 and under from Republican homes are, for example, 11 percentage points more likely to vote Republican if they attended college than if they didn’t. And young adults from Democratic households are 11 percentage points less likely to vote Democrat if they’ve gone to college than if not.

Second, nearly everybody grows more likely to vote Republican as they age — but especially college graduates. It is no shock that the vast majority of people of all educational backgrounds from Republican homes vote Republican by age 40. It may come as more of a surprise that 40-year-olds with Democrat parents are far less likely to vote Democrat if they’ve gone to college than if they haven’t. In fact, while three-quarters of the uneducated group still vote Democrat, the odds are only about 50-50 that the college graduates vote this way. And they’ve not all become skeptical political independents: Fully a third are registered Republicans.

Obviously, some kids turn left in college — but this appears to be the exception, not the rule. Does all this mean that our colleges and universities are actually breeding grounds for conservatism? Hardly. What the statistics really show is that higher education by itself doesn’t affect political views very much. Rather, in addition to the strong influence of parents, it is higher incomes — which typically reward a college education in America — that push people to the right politically. In Republican families, the income effect reinforces parents’ influence on their kids. In Democratic families, the two effects work against each other.

To fearful Republican parents, then: Sleep tight. When it comes to politics, your kids are in good hands — yours.

John J. Miller, the national correspondent for National Review and host of its Great Books podcast, is the director of the Dow Journalism Program at Hillsdale College. He is the author of A Gift of Freedom: How the John M. Olin Foundation Changed America.

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