What turns students away from political moderation?

by on June 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm in Data Source, Education, Political Science | Permalink

…the more engaged students are with faculty members and academics, the more their views moderate toward the center. But the more students become engaged in student activities, the more the liberals become more committed as liberals and conservatives become more committed as conservatives.

There is more information here.

1 Andrew June 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

This is not at all surprising. When students have to deeply engage academically– when they have to think– they become less ideological and more moderate. When students are more involved with student political groups– when they surround themselves with like-minded ideologues who all, miraculously, have found the political truth, thus rendering any deep thinking unnecessary– they get more ideological.

Unchecked ideology makes people stupid.

2 ummm June 11, 2014 at 1:55 pm

especially left wing ideology. Republicans at least understand the concept of incentives.

3 dead serious June 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Makes perfect sense. That’s why all the rednecks vote R against their collective economic self-interest: superior understanding of incentives.

4 Andrew' June 11, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Maybe they don’t think collectivist redistribution is in their economic self-interest. Such hicks!

5 mofo. June 11, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Or maybe economic self interest isnt the only factor people consider when voting.

6 Mark Thorson June 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Yup! Gummint gonna take away my guns, dogs, and Bible! And they gonna make it legal for gays to have sex in the streets.

7 BarackObama June 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

It’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

8 dead serious June 11, 2014 at 8:09 pm

Then they don’t understand their own financial incentives. What point are you trying to make but failing?

9 andrew' June 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Why do you think that?

10 dan1111 June 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm

Where does the argument that everyone should vote in their own naked economic self-interest lead? Certainly not to the policies liberals prefer.

11 Adrian Ratnapala June 11, 2014 at 5:32 pm

You are wrong, because of the word “naked”.

In 3rd world democracies (Sri Lanka is the one I know about), bad socialist governments could win elections on a platform amounting to “we will take from the landlords and give stuff to you”. And they won their elections, and they made the country poorer and (at least in Sri Lanka) they duly lost future elections.

But they weren’t entirely wrong: the previous landholding patterns really were a legacy of feudalism-filtered-by-colonialism. The “let’s grab their stuff” mentality can not be separated from fact that “their stuff” was ill gotten in the first place.

12 Jan June 11, 2014 at 9:18 pm

It’s real Adam Smith stuff. Ya know, ruthless individualism, acting in one’s economic self interest.

13 So Much for Subtlety June 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm

dead serious June 11, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Makes perfect sense. That’s why all the rednecks vote R against their collective economic self-interest: superior understanding of incentives.

Everyone in America votes against their economic self-interests. America’s wealthiest communities vote Democratic. American Jews for instance. So do America’s poorest non-White communities. African Americans for example. How is that working out for them?

It just goes to show there are other values apart from economic ones.

Voting Republican looks to me to be saner for Rednecks than voting Democrat for either Jews or Blacks.

14 dead serious June 11, 2014 at 8:13 pm

The rich can afford to vote against their economic self-interests, though yes, if the tax burdens suggested by Ds were too prohibitive they might swing R.

The poor should be voting D across the board.

Anyway, I was responding to this idiotic comment:
“especially left wing ideology. Republicans at least understand the concept of incentives.”

Clearly neither party has a monopoly on “understanding the concept of incentives” – whatever that means.

15 Doug June 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

It’s almost universally accepted that increased welfare spending would benefit poor whites that currently vote Republican. But just because they would receive net economic resources doesn’t mean that their overall quality of life would increase. Vast amounts of criminology statistics indicates that in mixed white/black neighborhoods that whites are disproportionately the target of crime. Whites make easier victims for various reasons including having less street smarts, not having as high gang participation to fight back and less natural athleticism to run away from or fight back against the attacker.

In short being white in a heavily black and poor neighborhood is very dangerous. Increased welfare lowers the gap between ghetto blacks and poor whites (poor whites still have higher labor force participation than ghetto blacks). This in turn leads to more ghetto blacks moving into poor white neighborhoods. The cost of this shift can easily outweigh the enhanced welfare benefits. Many poor whites, particularly in heavily black states like Mississippi, are indeed voting in their self-interest by voting against higher welfare.

16 Nathan W June 12, 2014 at 4:18 pm

especially for right wing ideology. The other side at least understands that mammals are not cold blooded.

17 Thor June 11, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Sure. But when was the last time you or I, or any undergrad we know, was exposed to anything politically rightwing on a campus? I speak as a blue state, right-of-centre Dem.

There are many far left faculty members in Arts, however. Even Stalinists.

18 F. Lynx Pardinus June 11, 2014 at 2:51 pm

“But when was the last time you or I, or any undergrad we know, was exposed to anything politically rightwing on a campus?”

Back in my day, you could tell their proclivities by how often they brought up Ron Paul in casual conversation.

19 Thor June 11, 2014 at 4:31 pm

I have never heard a prof in the Arts (esp. History) mention Paul. Not once. I get a lot of Chomsky, Foucault and Zizek, however.

20 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

I encountered many conservative profs and students – I was in a rural midwest engineering school. Humanities had to hide in a small building on one end of campus.

21 prognostication June 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm

You mean other than, say, all but one economics professor I ever had? Some political science professors? And I went to the flagship school of a state that hasn’t voted Republican in a statewide election in decades.

22 Steve Sailer June 11, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Sounds like fun. Young men like to join teams — gangs, sports teams, armies, fraternities — and compete against other teams of young men.

I was struck by something Oliver Stone said in a documentary about American soldiers during the Vietnam War on why the draft concentrated on 19-year-olds: You can make effective soldiers out of 28-year-old men, like America did during WWII, but you can’t make them like it. You can, however, get 19-year-old guys to like being soldiers.

23 Z June 12, 2014 at 10:08 pm

I think we can all agree that comments like “black men enjoy being seen as big spenders” or black people “possess poorer native judgement” can be accurately described as examples of racism, and the kinds of people who say things like that can be accurately described as racists.

24 Eric Can't Or June 11, 2014 at 1:56 pm

So spending lots of time around Dr. Brat will make me a moderate, I presume?

25 Michael B Sullivan June 11, 2014 at 2:12 pm

It seems to me that what this is saying is “age is correlated with more nuanced understandings of the world. Your political opinions are influence by the people you engage with.”

26 Z June 11, 2014 at 2:19 pm

More engagement with professors results in more moderation amongst the undergrads, but also results in a radical left wing faculty. The conclusion we are supposed to draw, therefore, is something horrible happens in grad school to turn otherwise sensible undergrads into foaming at the mouth loons.

27 Thor June 11, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Re: the Arts/Humanities.

Ironically, it is a market thing. If you aren’t radical, you won’t “sell” (by sell I mean, conference invites, funding, publication in the trendy journals, thesis committee members who “matter”).

Arts faculties in academia in some sense see themselves as scientific, whereas they mostly resemble the art world. Again, if you aren’t radical, you are nothing.

Consider French intellectual history. Try proposing a thesis on someone like Aron. Ha! Where? Even Sartre meant nothing for decades, when the postmodernists really held sway.

28 Nathan W June 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

I think professors can usually hold their own with regard to their students.

Perhaps the apparent conclusion is driven by increased interest by “left wing” professors to engage in mutually respectful dialogue with their students?

29 Marie June 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm

No way a study like this can go wrong.

Good grief, certainly the bulk of college profs are very liberal, and students leave the nests and start idolizing the professors and fall in line with liberal thinking, normally. You know, they’re not going to let their parents tell them what to think any more, they’re going to let the professor (preferably the one in jeans) tell them what to think. It’s a pretty universal phase. I’d guess on conservative campuses there’s some move to fall in line with conservative thinking of the profs, too, although since that’s so uncool in the general culture there’s mitigation there.

Sure, the ones that the profs actually talk with are more sophisticated and so they learn to say they are moderates, because being an extremist is not done. Only goofs that run the student union don’t know better than to actually call themselves liberals or progressives. If they have any real interaction with any professional adults, professors or otherwise, they learn not to self-identify in a way that makes them look like rubes.

Doesn’t say a thing about how they really think, just how they label.

30 F. Lynx Pardinus June 11, 2014 at 2:45 pm

” It’s a pretty universal phase.”

It’s always odd to see people claim that a very humanities-centric narrative (and most commonly in certain X-studies fields of the humanities) as some sort of universal college experience. As an example, most STEM majors don’t have anything close to the experience you claim as universal.

31 Brandon June 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm

I had exactly one professor in my undergrad that brought up anything explicitly political. He wasn’t fond of Bush and liked Noam Chomsky. It was annoying because I just wanted him to talk about calculus, not political opinions I more or less agreed with. The rest of my undergrad experience? Well, not too much to get political about in the actual curriculum of thermodynamics or fluid mechanics.

If anything, I’d say it’s a pretty universal phase, at least for white male undergrads, to go through a me-first libertarian streak at some point in college/their early 20’s.

32 Marie June 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Maybe you had amazing professors.
I think, though, you can heft a lot of world view into lectures on thermodynamics. A huge lot.

33 Adrian Ratnapala June 11, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Nope. The good thing about being an engineering and physics student was that the politics was basically left to campus leaflets. I only knew about the bigger picture because I had family in the humanities departments.

Most of the physics/maths academics were probably soft left, but that didn’t matter (and is not certain), the engineering ones were either split 50-50 or leaned slightly right. Occasionally someone would give a talk about renewable energy and begin with a stupendously tedious rant about global warming.

Thermodynamics contains wonderfully profound and interesting philosophy. But that has nothing at all to do with either politics or undergraduate teaching. The teaching is about steam (for engineers) or partial differential equations (for physicists). Steam is slightly less dull.

34 Mike June 11, 2014 at 7:09 pm

At my very large Texas public university I had plenty of business (MBA) professors who loved to share the Republican gospel, but only 2-3 STEM (BS/MS Petroleum Engineering) professors who ever even mentioned politics, and even then only in passing.

Most STEM students really seemed to hate having their time wasted.

35 Thomas June 11, 2014 at 7:35 pm

” I’d say it’s a pretty universal phase, at least for white male undergrads, to go through a me-first libertarian streak at some point in college/their early 20′s.”

This is a good one. Libertarianism is an ideology born of immaturity, check. Libertarianism is selfishness, check. Libertarianism is “a phase”, check. Selfishness is particularly prevalent in white males, check.

36 dead serious June 11, 2014 at 8:18 pm

Nice parsing and totally agree.

37 jason y. June 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm

fewer than 20% of all degrees are handed out to STEM majors, so while i welcome another reminder that generalizing from personal experience is unreliable, the humanities-centric narrative is more representative than the STEM-centric narrative.

38 Andrew' June 11, 2014 at 3:52 pm

The Crazy Nastyass thermodynamics don’t really give a shit, it just takes what it wants.

39 Marie June 11, 2014 at 4:10 pm

Ones I met seemed to.

The attempt was to make it sound less nefarious — meaning it’s natural for young adults in the swim to cling to the authority figures around them and swap their previous associative world views for new associative world views, rather than simply step back and truly try to figure things out themselves — not some big conspiracy.

Sometimes predates college.

I consider this a world view thing, not a political one. The politics is a side effect. And I don’t see how STEM majors are exempted. Religion is a good example, in a healthy world young Baptists would enter a STEM program and come out maybe Baptist, or maybe Muslim, or maybe Catholic, or maybe Hindu, or maybe pagan, or maybe still looking. Instead, they disproportionately come out self-identifying as atheist. Is that not accurate in your experience?

Of course, STEM majors who have already gone through this transformation will say that this is because atheism is true, not because atheist profs influenced them. Just like liberal humanities majors will say they are liberal but liberalism is right, not because they are copying their elders.

40 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I hope I don’t get pilloried for this comment, but STEM is heavily invested in the Scientific Method, which is pretty much antithesis for organized religion, especially the literalists.

41 Ricardo June 11, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Instead of saying “the scientific method,” you could say “testable hypotheses.” Same concept but less pilloriable.

42 Marie June 11, 2014 at 7:33 pm

I won’t pillory you (I can’t build a birdhouse, so that’s out).

But I think I covered that above (my POV on it). The scientific method (accurately applied) does not contradict religion, and religion does not contradict the scientific method.

Your opinion that there is a contradiction (as well as mine that there is not) is based on a world view, not empirical data. Do you think you might have picked up that world view from a professor?

43 dead serious June 11, 2014 at 8:21 pm

Basically Chris S is consistent and you’re not. Either you believe in the scientific method (or as Ricardo submits, “testable hypotheses” or you ultimately don’t.

You ultimately don’t but are okay twisting yourself into a pretzel trying to make a flying spaghetti monster fit into that model.

44 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 9:07 pm

Marie – perhaps interestingly for an athiest (or agnostic I suppose: how can I prove there is no God) I had a close friend who was a fundamentalist Christian and we managed to have an ongoing respectful conversation, as long as we respected boundaries. (I agreed not to call him illogical, and he agreed to not try to convince me I was going to hell.)

Literalists (fundamentalists? those that believe that the Bible is literally true – not metaphors – and are Young Earth believers) certainly have a problem with both testable hypotheses and Occam’s Razor.

To my belief, religion has erred in trying to stray from the realm of faith into that of science and logic. Religion attempts to capture that sense of wonder that is beyond logic, and often uses paradox to make that point. “What is the sound of one hand clapping.” Even things like the Trinity, Virgin Birth, and Christ’s Resurrection were meant to force followers to accept paradox as a way of seeing that not everything was logic – in my opinion.

The believer should wrestle with the fact that they believe in something that is impossible and illogical. Modern religion’s error is to take that “faith” and try to bring it into the pedestrian world of “science”. Trying to “prove” faith-based claims cheapens faith. Religion should take advice from WOPR: “The only way to win is… to refuse to play.”

45 andrew' June 11, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Do you really know how hard it is to do that?

If you read some other guy’s claims that doesn’t count

46 Marie June 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm

@dead serious,

Well, if you say so, it must be so! 😉 I’m not really seeing any evidence (argument or data) in your comment to prove your hypothesis, of course.

47 Marie June 11, 2014 at 9:30 pm

@Chris S,

I think your experience with religious people may be limited. Maybe even bubble-ish? 🙂

You seem to be fighting a lot of straw men.

Are you familiar with the scientific conjecture behind Creation Science? Could you write me a, say, five page paper explaining what they actually believe about the science? I have not been convinced by the arguments, but they have many, and they are very much based on scientific method. Of course, they have the additional layer of saying even if the science didn’t go their way, they’d “have to” believe out of faith (which I also don’t ascribe to, although I respect it). But they definitely use scientific method, and in addition (and more convincingly for me) they point out how much of conventional wisdom in some popular “scientific” areas does not.

If you cannot explain exactly what the argument (scientific, not religious) for Creation Science is, how do you feel qualified to dismiss it? From hearsay and assumptions? Or from evidence?

Are you familiar with the history of scholasticism? The fact that most early scientists were Catholics, with many being monks or priests (hardly surprising in an age when the Church was the only way to get educated)? Have you read any of the writing of Newton on religion? Hate to have had that religious guy give up on scientific inquiry.

Do you know the Catholic dogma concerning reason, have you read the catechism entries on it? Why do you think the Virgin Birth dogma was designed to convince people logic doesn’t work? Catholics don’t believe the world is illogical, they believe God created reason. If a woman had IVF procedures where she remained a virgin but was pregnant, would that be illogical? Certainly not, it would just be something that someone 500 years ago would not have been able to understand. The things you site have traditionally been called mysteries, not paradoxes. A mystery is not something unreasonable or something that cannot be understood, it is something that you don’t understand right now. Folks who practice Scientism might do well to incorporate the idea that not everything is currently understood by man. True scientists certainly understand this.

Have you really thought these things through scrupulously, or are you simply adopting the POV of folks around you that you find yourself in kinship with? And is that really any different from the rare Christian that doesn’t know about the island of good people who have never heard of Jesus (many of the Christians I know have traveled overseas, often helping orphans or teaching children in war zones, so not so sheltered).

48 dead serious June 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

@ Marie, the burden is on you to prove your hypothesis, not for me to disprove it.

Otherwise, my contention that an ethereal pink hippo is responsible for the fate of the universe is just as valid as whatever you believe.

49 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

@Marie, you seem to be placing a lot of hurdles in front of me before I can express an opinion. How many claims must I be able to fully articulate before I am qualified to make a statement?

As a practitioner of Scientism (where is my church? unfortunately it is not scientology nor Christian science..) I am well aware of the limits of my knowledge. Every time I ask an interesting question, I see an entire field has been devoted to it and ends up with more questions than answers. Cosmological inflation? Quantum entanglement? Talk about producing more questions than answers… I wish others would be as reluctant to foreclose on their epistemological explanations.

50 Marie June 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm

@Chris S,
Sorry, I wasn’t clear, I wasn’t assuming you were a “practitioner” of Scientism. You noted you might be closest to agnostic, I run with that.

I’m not saying you have to be super qualified in all areas to have opinions about the world. That would take us all out as contenders for standing up from our beds in the morning.

I’m saying you make a lot of definitive statements, and your examples make them seem to be based on stereotypes and light understanding. I guess I’m simply suggesting that if you don’t want to seriously understand these religions and religious people before developing an opinion on their limitations, you might simply want to remain agnostic about the people and creeds and what their limitations are. Broadly claiming that religious and scientific method are incompatible is a pretty big statement, you might want to be sure you fairly well understand both religion and scientific method before making it, you know?

But I don’t mean to come off as adversarial, obviously you are commenting with good will and I don’t want to give you the impression I don’t appreciate that, and your civility.

Now I’m off to eat a plate of spaghetti. Oh, no, now I’m going to hell. . .

51 Marie June 11, 2014 at 10:14 pm

@dead serious,

Sorry, I don’t mean your hypothesis about God. I mean your hypothesis about me.

52 Adrian Ratnapala June 11, 2014 at 5:57 pm

I think if STEM people go from Baptist to Athiest it is mostly because of peers and not because of lecturers. Also it is a hint that their faith was weak. I suspect that is common in parts of America where strong religion is the norm.

I come from Australia, and I knew a few serious Christian engineering students. None of them changed their opinions as far as a I know. But had I been in America, many of the other guys would perhaps _at first_ have seemed just as Christian.

53 Marie June 11, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I think you are spot on about any world view (for lack of a better term), that there is going to be a bunch of folks who adopt it without consideration and then that view is very easily altered because it is not well grounded, but also because the kind of person likely to just automatically be Catholic because his parents were is inclined to then be atheist because his prof is (substitute conservative, liberal, whatever).

But I think the peers come second. Sure, once you have the mob rolling you don’t need the bullhorn much anymore. But I think in lectures, what matters is not strict lectures on global warming or the evils of Creationism. What matters is the assumptions. When someone delivers all his information from one perspective, he doesn’t have to be blatant about what that perspective is for the assumptions to work changes in an admiring audience. All you have to do in astrophysics is never, ever say “God”, and people get the idea. All you have to do in thermodynamics is discuss the great good being done in your department using federal grants, and people get the idea.

54 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I don’t know if it is a strictly American trait – probably not – but many Christian children are raised in a bubble, where their school, parents, peers, friends, other respected adults, all accept the same doctrine and are circumspect about not deviating from it.

College is often the first time they are confronted with ideas not so circumscribed: “You mean there are actually people in this world who do not accept Jesus as their personal savior, yet also are not hopeless heroin addicts living under freeway bridges??” And these “trivial” violations of their faith actually shake it to the core, as they have been so sheltered.

55 Marie June 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I also may be behind the times, but back in my day folks going into STEM (I predated the term, by far) had to take a ton of humanities courses, usually in their freshman year when they are most vulnerable to the effect.

56 andrew' June 11, 2014 at 4:44 pm

AP’d out of all of them, thank god.

I’d already taught myself to read and write. What could those people tell me? Their ideas of what is important? No spank you!

57 Marie June 11, 2014 at 7:50 pm


In freshman year humanities classes? Nothing, intentionally.

That leaves out the occasional brilliant or very insightful guy who might wind up teaching something, but you’re just as likely to run into such a person on the bus.

58 Roy June 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

But they are all intro courses, and the STEM classes that are used to weed out students are usually taken at the same time. So they really don’t engage.

59 Marie June 11, 2014 at 7:51 pm


O.k., I can sure see it to a degree, but I have had arguments with people who tell me advertising never works on them, either.

At some level, I think the water you are swimming in is bound to seep into your pores a bit.

60 andrew' June 11, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Surely the stuff I hear like being assigned masturbation is blown out of proportion, but seriously, why aren’t you people pissed off about paying people to tell you bs? I don’t even feel comfortable with conservative economics professors giving their superfluous opinions.

61 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Hopefully, in the worst case, you are paying them to present you with detailed opinions and interpretations of fact, with which you may disagree. The learning comes in being able to understand viewpoints other than your own, not necessarily adopting those viewpoints.

62 andrew' June 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Amazingly, I still have almost no “opinions” on enthalpy, except that I like it.

63 Adrian Ratnapala June 11, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Whereas I have lots of opinions about entropy and free energy. Though I can’t remember which one of them enthalpy actually is. U + PV probably. I don’t think I heard about it after I left high school.

64 andrew' June 11, 2014 at 6:42 pm

Reminds me of a discussion I had. I didn’t believe in recycling but did. The other guy believed in it but didn’t. He said he felt better because he could take credit for my recycling.

I thought, it doesn’t work, but if it does work it definitely doesn’t work like that.

65 Marie June 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Lots of people are pissed off about it. They deal with it, gotta get that golden ticket to the middle class. . .

66 Tom June 12, 2014 at 4:18 pm

I had a lecturer in molecular biology, an algerian postdoc in his 30s, who occasionally began or ended lectures with a marxist rant or some plain CP recruitment. I certainly hope he never got near tenure.

67 Jan June 11, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Here a 2012 synthesis that those same authors did of the many studies on this topic researchers conducted over the years. They all find that going to college does not make one more liberal. In some ways it’s actually very easy to study, because some people go to college and some don’t–a natural control group.


68 Marie June 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm

So they are making a career out this?

I have friends that are are unemployed or underemployed. I’m going to tell them to go into sociology!

69 Jan June 11, 2014 at 10:09 pm

Seems like they had a lot to work with. People can do the same research and keep coming to the same conclusions and yet some still can’t be convinced. Apparently there’s lots of room in the field for replicating the evidence. Have your friends give it a shot.

70 Mick June 11, 2014 at 10:55 pm

If education doesn’t make one more liberal, why are college professors overwhelmingly liberal, especially those in sociology, gender studies, and literature departments? Are the research methodologies of such areas inherently biased, such that pre-existing liberals are attracted to their results? Or, maybe pre-existing liberals are attracted to studying people because their results have policy implications? What is it, Jan? Maybe your opinion is that reality just happens to be biased towards liberalism and the informed or uninformed opinions of liberals just happen to coincide “with the data”?

Being “convinced of the research conclusions” seems very easy when all the researchers share your beliefs from the start.

71 Jan June 12, 2014 at 7:41 am

It’s simple selection bias. The people who are attracted to the field are more liberal. Does working in the oil industry make one a conservative?

Assuming one believes that reliable results can be derived from rigorous research on this topic, then at some point one has to be willing to be convinced. If that can’t happen, something else is going on.

72 Urso June 12, 2014 at 10:43 am

“Does working in the oil industry make one a conservative?”
Anecdotally, the answer appears to be yes, at least in some ways.

73 andrew' June 12, 2014 at 7:06 am

This is a subtle strawman.

The complaint isn’t that colleges turn people liberal, it is that they teach it.

The strawman version has literally never crossed my mind.

Although how “markedly” does it Ned to be in a 50%+1 voting system? I’ll give you three guesses.

74 andrew' June 12, 2014 at 7:25 am

I’m still pissed I had to learn FORTRAN. Everyone else should be wearing out pitch forks into triple digits.

75 Jan June 12, 2014 at 7:47 am

Hmm, the complaint seems to be that the result of the teaching is indoctrination and students that latch on to that and turn more liberal (isn’t that what Marie saying in the comment I respond to?). This is not a strawman. People would care much less about this issue if they thought students were mostly immune to the teachings. Nonetheless, feel free to be outraged.

76 Alan June 11, 2014 at 2:26 pm

This study must be wrong because it does not confirm what I believe.

77 Marie June 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Or it must be right because the authors are able to make money by contributing to a book telling us that what we all plainly see is actually an illusion, or a conservative trick. That always sells well, but only because it’s super true.

78 Jan June 11, 2014 at 6:59 pm

But do you have any specific criticisms of the study or methodology itself? Feel free to dismiss it, but understand why you are dismissing it.

79 Marie June 11, 2014 at 9:55 pm

I actually am a lazy bum and haven’t read any of it in depth, but I did take a run at it above.

My criticism is that measuring *how* “liberal” or *how* “conservative” someone is based on surveys seems to ignore the obvious fact that people self-identify (and say things that brand themselves in one way or another) for many different reasons in many different circumstances. One explanation for the results could be, could it not, that students who are social with profs have better social skills and know to keep their extreme beliefs to themselves? How about the best comment yet on the thread, dirk’s below, and the idea that they get the cause and effect backwards (implied direction if not stated, since they are essentially defending professors against the accusation that they create political extremism)? How about simply questioning (somewhere here) the ethics of conducting a study that says people in your own profession aren’t the bad guys they are accused of being? I could probably come up with dozens more.

I think these kinds of studies are opinion pieces, and I don’t mind opinion pieces but I do when they act like studies and accuse their opponents of not using science like they do.

I can see being proven wrong here, and that it would be based on either my not understanding empirical sociology or my missing something in the study itself. But when my car breaks down, and the mechanic tells me something hinky, I can usually pick up on the hinky based not on my knowledge of car guts but on my understanding of the “tells” people demonstrate. Lots of “tells” in this article.

80 Mick June 11, 2014 at 11:06 pm

College students arrive on campus 52% self identified liberal and we are supposed to believe that interaction with professors, especially sociology professors who average 44:1 Dem/Rep at California Universities, are somehow bringing them towards conservatism?

But that’s what the study reports! And, if you express disbelief in the study performed by someone 44x more likely to lean liberal, which says that people 44x more likely to lean liberal are steering students to conservatism, there are liberals here (Jan) to remind you how you “don’t trust science”.

81 Jan June 12, 2014 at 9:16 am

Did you read all the other research they cite in the write-up I linked. It’s not that I can’t believe there is some bias in some studies from certain groups, but I need some alternative evidence to even compare it to. Good lord.

82 Jan June 12, 2014 at 9:22 am

@Marie, but wouldn’t your argument go both ways, to dampen people’s admission of being both “extreme” liberals and conservatives? I linked elsewhere in the post of a much larger body of literature on this. Not all these studies were conducted the way this particular one was. My question to you would be how else shall we fund and conduct this research if the current methods are unacceptable? Alternatively, where is the evidence pointing the other direction? I just haven’t seen it.

83 Thor June 11, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Where did you get your English degree?

84 Tarrou June 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm

“The study is by Kyle Dodson, assistant professor of sociology” – A man with clearly NO REASON to present himself or his profession as moderates. I think his conclusion is probably right, but nonetheless, academics studying academia always has an incestuous feel to me. There’s just no objectivity to be had there.

85 Jan June 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm

Same reason I object to drug companies studying their own products.

86 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 9:16 pm

If they don’t, who will?

87 Jan June 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Sorry, it was a sarcastic comment. Was getting at the exact point you raise. Who’s likely to study this type of stuff other than academics? It is a ridiculous objection. I suppose some politically motived folks on the right could fund a consulting firm or some such thing to study the issue, but that would also have its own biases.

88 Mick June 11, 2014 at 11:08 pm

California University Sociologists 44:1 Democrat to Republican. In short, Jan, be quiet, you’ll never find a pharmaceutical company more biased than sociologists, despite your devoted efforts.

89 Jan June 12, 2014 at 7:48 am

That doesn’t address my point at all.

90 joan June 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm

The more you know the more you realize that most problems with simple solution have already been solved and solutions to complicated problems have complicated solution and unintended consequences. For example life expectancy increases more when we build sewer system and provide water than from all of the innovations of modern medicine since.

91 Chris S June 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm

But where’s the fun in that? There is no way I can argue with my buddies about the relative merits of clean drinking water, like I can, say, Common Core.

92 Edward Burke June 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

–and the implications for online and distance learning? What qualities of professor-student interaction in a conventional academic setting are present with professor-student interactions in purely online settings? (How does MRU address this?)

BTW: how well is Mayor Bloomberg’s Harvard commencement address going over?

93 Edward Burke June 11, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Also: what is the state of the “trigger warning” debate?

94 dirk June 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Brown-nosers have more moderate views? Who’da thunk?

95 Marie June 11, 2014 at 4:21 pm

That is brilliant.

Hey, I feel my politics suddenly becoming more moderate. . . . .

96 David Sucher June 11, 2014 at 4:11 pm

You are making a good point.
Then again…
Of course…
Well, what about a committee?

97 Wimivo June 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm

No one has mentioned the search for identity yet? That’s a bit part of college, and uncritically embracing an ideology is an easy start.

98 Jon June 11, 2014 at 6:41 pm

Because in the student groups, no one wants to be a “squish” or RINO/DINO, and this kind of infighting and partisan oneupsmanship is smiled upon by the people trying to harness the energy of rabid youthful volunteers.

99 foobarista June 11, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Certainty is more pleasing than doubt.

Especially if you can wrap your certainty in self-righteousness, as the young of whatever political persuasion are likely to do.

100 freethinker June 11, 2014 at 8:27 pm

In India I find that active political involvement has less to do with the students’ interaction with academics than with their majors. Students who study the humanities in government-run colleges are more politically active and they are the ones who always lookout for an excuse to organize a strike. The opportunity cost of political activities is too high for science and business students , and especially for students of medicine and engineering. Those who enroll in humanities departments know that the degree is useless in the job market and so not attending classes has almost zero opportunity cost, giving lot of scope for political activities. Of course there are exceptions .

101 freethinker June 11, 2014 at 9:57 pm

I should add that I know instances of teachers of humanities instigating students to be invovled in political activigties and organize strikes . Being closely associated with such teachers does more harm than good.

102 The Other Jim June 11, 2014 at 10:11 pm

At some point, we, as sane human beings, have to conclude that Tyler is just trolling the entirety of humanity in order to make advertising money off of those who respond.

I think that “students who talk to their university professors become more moderate” is the tipping point.

103 Marie June 11, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Now I feel like a mark!

104 prior_approval June 12, 2014 at 12:07 am

The director of the Mercatus Center is not really concerned about advertising money.

105 andrew' June 12, 2014 at 7:35 am

I am concerned, as I have been taught to be, with a single source that aims to upend a conventional wisdom. But I don’t have to reject it out of hand. That is what is no great about using the old noodle.

106 andrew' June 12, 2014 at 6:58 am

So, despite trying, professors can’t teach students to be progressive?


107 Nathan W June 12, 2014 at 4:28 pm

I think that when you study political science, professors can be so intensely aware of all manner of bias that, counterintuitively, it is very rare to see strong political bias on the part of a professor in political science, except for all the time, except they know we would see through it so they have to be explicit about their personal biases and how they try to keep balance in teaching. This comes up subtlely or explicitly in almost every poli sci class I took (there were a lot of them).

For example, I recall taking a class with a professor with whom I disagreed on a very large number of political issues, and the particular class was very much issues based because it was the core course on Canadian politics. But he was clear about his biases and personal views, and could still present a legitimate argument to both (and other) sides of the story, and this made it easy to respect many views which I had not previously understood. (He was also one of the national TV go-to guys when there was a political issue which many people don’t understand and which needed clarification from a reputable person.)

108 Eric S June 15, 2014 at 12:20 pm

We need more people like your professor, Nathan.

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