pageok
pageok
pageok
Dan Klein Responds to VC Comments:

A few weeks ago I posted on the new paper by Dan Klein and Charlotta Stern, "Narrow-Tent Democrats and Fringe Others: The Policy Views of Social Science Professors." The post spawned a vigorous and interesting discussion in the Comments (available here). It is also relevant to the Leagal Affairs debate that Orin flagged earlier today. I invited Dan to provide a brief response to some of your Comments if he wanted to, and I am delighted that he agreed to do so. Here is his response:

Todd Zywicki posted an entry on Charlotta Stern’s and my paper “Narrow-Tent Democrats and Fringe Others: The Policy Views of Social Science Professors,” to appear in Critical Review: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Politics and Society. The post was followed by 34 comments.

My 2003 survey of members of six leading scholarly associations has gotten a fair amount of attention. The “Narrow-Tent” paper is the big paper coming out of the survey. If you want to read just one paper on the survey, this is the one to read.

This memo is a follow-up to the set of Volokh comments.

Stern and I are open about our libertarian sensibilities. We agree with Gunnar Myrdal that such openness is the best way to avoid bias and advance discourse that involves deep-seated judgments and interpretations. For a review of Myrdal and a justification of disclosure of ideological sensibilities (and of exposé), please see my paper “Sense and Sensibilities.”

But many commenters say “A-ha!, these researchers are libertarians, and that undermines the whole study.” Sorry, but the conclusion doesn’t follow.

Many revert to l-v-c convention (that is, liberal v. conservative) in putting libertarians as conservatives. The paper shows not only that Dems and Greens are highly statist, but also that Repubs are much more statist than some think, and on some issues more statist than the Dems (e.g., immigration, military action, drugs and prostitution restrictions). My agenda is to criticize l-v-c. I think the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are simply degenerative. Other than code (in the US context) for Dem and Repub, they are terribly fuzzy. Our research tacitly criticizes Republicans and conservatism (in a narrow sense that is different from libertarianism), and I think that is one reason that conservatives ignore many of our findings. For example, the cluster analysis shows that conservatives (in the narrow sense made clear in the paper) are closer to the establishment left and even to the progressives than they are to the libertarians. This finding is remarkable. The first division in the cluster analysis is between the tiny, tiny number of libertarians (of which 40% vote Republican and 11% vote Democratic) and the vast mass of all others who are mostly significantly more statist.

For libertarians, the voluntary/coercive distinction is not only meaningful, but gives rise to important analytic structure in categories and formulations. The distinction is not black or white, but is a matter of degree. My goal is to make people on both the left and the right face up to the fact that they are much more agreeable to coercive policy than they are usually prepared to admit.

Responses to specific points:

1. The Dem’s tent is narrow. The study finds that over the 18 policy questions, the Dems have a narrower tent than the Repubs. (Note, one is a “Dem” based on saying he mostly votes for Dem candidates, not based on being registered Democratic, and likewise for Repubs.) Specifically, the sum of 18 Dem-group standard deviations is 17.1, while the sum for the Repub-group is 23.1. Thus, the sum is 35% larger for the Repubs. The greater diversity of the Repub tent is also shown by plotting the policy index scores for each individual in each group. The Republican group shows significantly more spread (pp. 17-19). Commenters including Gabriel Rossman, Bruce Wilder, and Justin challenge our finding, saying that the result comes from the libertarian selection and formulation of the 18 policy questions. They do not make the case, however. The questions are not remarkable, and the scoring is granular, based on a continuous scale, not a binary categorization into “statist” and “libertarian”. I really don’t see anything about the 18 questions that would deflate the diversity of the Dems or puff it up for the Repubs. Think about it, very few Dems really favor free enterprise and all favor redist/welfare state/protect the weak type policies. I suspect that in the mind of those on the left, the differences between progressives and the establishment left seem larger than they really are. Meanwhile Repubs have both libertarian types and (narrow) conservative types. Realize that the libertarians are often far-out in their opinions, so they stretch the tent more than their number would make one think. Thus, is it really surprising that the Dems have a significantly narrower tent? In the comments the only substantive challenge comes from Gabriel Rossman: “if they had asked about, say, gay marriage they might have found more uniformity among Republicans.” My guess is that we would find academic Dems to be quite uniformly supportive of gay marriage (as Stern and I are), while academic Repubs being more mixed (again, one must recognize that those with libertarian tendencies tend to vote Republican). My guess is that Rossman’s suggested question would have reinforced the narrow-tent finding.

2. Are Dems and Repubs much different? A commenter named “alkali” looked carefully at the 18 issues and notes: “the poll asked respondents to rate themselves on a 5 point scale (from ‘strongly support’ to ‘strongly oppose’) with respect to 18 particular policies. On 8 of the 18 issues, the average Dem is less than 1 point away from the average Rep. On no issue are the average Dem and Rep more than 2 points apart.” Two points. First, the “5 point scale” has a measure of only 4 units, so a difference of 1 is a difference equaling 25% of the scale, not 20%. The differences are somewhat bigger than it might seem. But, second, “alkali” is pointing out something that we highlight in the paper, even in the abstract, namely, that the Republicans are generally also quite supportive of status-quo interventions. Very few are serious supporters of individual liberty. Again, the cluster analysis shows that the (narrowly defined) conservatives are closer to the establishment left and progressives than they are to the libertarian cluster.

3. Regarding the libertarian formulation of the policy questions. Each policy question posits some form of government intervention and then asks degree of support/opposition. It is deliberately constructed to provide a uniform format suitable for creating an overall policy index of degree of statism v. libertarianism. Is there something wrong with that? I think that is the analytic contribution of the study. Many on the left object to it, but frankly I think that is because this method exposes their degree of statism. Gabriel Rossman writes: “the questions are horribly worded and reflect an extreme libertarian bias (for better or worse, things like legalizing heroin and eliminating progressive income tax simply aren't on the table politically). the proper thing to do would have been to adopt questions from the GSS, both because these questions are well tested and also because this gives a solid baseline of the general population.” While I agree that getting comparisons to the general population would be a great benefit of using GSS or other commonly used questions, the problem is that those questions do not get at the core analytic issue of statism v. libertarianism (coercive v. voluntary action). Most surveys are mired in the l-v-c swamp. The big difference between my research and practically all other work on political culture is that I avoid the l-v-c swamp.

4. Do the policy questions favor the Republicans? I do not think that the set of 18 questions are slanted so as to overstate the statism of the Dems and understate the statism of the Repubs. The whole realm of redistribution/welfare state, which the Dems are more statist on, is limited to just one question. Meanwhile, there are three separate questions for drugs, prostitution, and gambling, which are personal-liberties questions I had hoped to see Democrats be significantly more libertarian than the Republicans on (on the whole, they were only somewhat more, alas). Admittedly, the whole realm of military action is limited to just one question, but, hey, that issue is not really straight forwardly statist v. libertarian anyway (similarly with one other question, namely monetary policy), as there is a libertarian flavor to, say, toppling a Saddam Hussein (although Stern and I tend to lean against the Iraq invasion). On the whole, I feel that the findings about relative statism of Dems v. Repub voters are reasonable. Notice that this is about voters’ views, not regimes’ deeds. That the Republicans now in power in Washington have in fact been inimical to individual liberty is not relevant to what we are discussing.

5. Is Democratic really leftist? Justin has a point here, but I think it is pretty clear that we are focusing on the US context and that everything is dominated by the status quo.

6. Why is the academy dominated by the left? This question is tossed around by the commenters, often insinuating that we took a stand on the question. But Stern and I say at the start of the paper that we do not attempt to explain it. I do hope, however, that people observe our contribution to the explanandum: We provide knock-down evidence that Republican-voting PhDs who are members of the leading scholarly association in their field (American Historical Association, etc.) are significantly more likely to land outside of academia in the fields of sociology and history, and same with weaker effect in economics, political science, and legal and political philosophy. Also, across all six disciplines studied, in the multivariate regressions, the correlation between voting R and landing outside academia consistently holds up at 0.01 (see pp. 22 and 34).

I thank Todd Zywicki and The Volokh Conspiracy for hosting this discussion, and those who commented on paper for taking the time.

Daniel Klein, Professor of Economics, George Mason University

Justin (mail):
These comments are basically nonresponsive. I feel bad to state that, because it's clear Dan Klein took the time to read and consider them, but his comments only end up responding to criticism in useless ways.

For instance, he responds to my particular criticism as,

"Justin has a point here, but I think it is pretty clear that we are focusing on the US context and that everything is dominated by the status quo."

Yes, of course. The bulk of my comments was not on the obvious truthfulness of such a statement, but why using "the US context" created a result that was highly flawed and resulted in results that were quite deceptive and had highly questionable/limited usefulness.
1.23.2006 7:26pm
Freder Frederson (mail):
You know in my experience it is true, Republicans do tend to have a "bigger tent" than the Democrats. But from my hardly scientific and completely anecdotal experience, it is because the traditional Republican and more "libertarian" Republicans are willing to live with extreme cognitive dissonance. I put "libertarian" in quotes because very few people are true libertareans (which are nothing more than right-wing anarchists), they are more, "I'm just a selfish SOB who thinks I shouldn't pay any taxes but should benefit from all the perks of a advanced society". So-called "libertarians" who are professors at public universities are a particular pet peeve of mine. It is beyond me how any self-respecting libertarian could suck at the teat at the public trough without his or head literally exploding. Shouldn't they be burning down that bastion of government inefficiency and corruption?

But, alas I am sidetracked. The point is, all the Republicans I choose to associate with are socially liberal. They are pro-choice, don't want ID or creationism taught in schools, could care less about school prayer, don't believe in abstinence only sex education or that pre-marital sex is necessarily sinful, are supportive of public schools, and think Pat Robertson and his ilk are regressive morons. Yet they blindly vote Republican and think that all those Christian Conservatives that the Republican party has depended on for the last twenty years don't matter.

Well, you are about to learn that all those rubes were dead serious and really did want to overturn Roe v. Wade and have our schools teach that God created the earth in six days 6000 years ago. And I am almost to the point of saying, "fine, you voted with and supported these morons, you deserve it". Unfortunately, I still have to live in this country and on this planet and live with the consequences of the reasonable Republicans blindness.

I feel much better now.
1.23.2006 7:58pm
frankcross (mail):
My only problem is the choice of questions. If one wanted to manipulate these results, it would be pretty easy to do with choice of questions. Not to suggest that you consciously manipulated it, but there is always a risk of unconscious bias or simple happenstance in question selection. Without any validation of the questions, it's hard to draw many confident conclusions here.

I would have preferred you take an outside source of questions, such as those used in Gallup polls, for example.
1.23.2006 8:11pm
Gordo:
I don't see why anyone should be surprised or dispute the finding that the Democrats are more "narrow tent" than the Republicans.

First, the "big tent" party in U.S. politics tends to be the majority party. The Republicans are the majority party - possibly since 1968, probably since 1980, and certainly since 1994. They became the majority party when they expanded their "tent" to accept Southern white voters and working class white voters. You can argue that this tactic was shameless, disgusting, etc., but in fact it is what has happened.

Secondly, I can speak from personal experience. I categorize myself as a "liberal" Republican. I do not agree with the Republican party's majority cultural conservatism. But I agree with its economic policy for the most part, and with its foreign policy almost entirely. When given a choice between two good candidates (alas, a rare occasion), I will vote for the Republican.

Finally, look at politics on a X-Y axis. The X axis has leftist economics on the left and rightist economics on the right. The Y axis has culturally liberal values positive (above) and culturally conservative values negative (below). Each party has as its base one quadrant. Arguably, the Republicans have the advantage in both of the two "mixed" quadrants, that is the economically leftist cultural conservatives and the economically rightist cultural liberals. You don't need a social science paper to figure this one out.
1.23.2006 9:24pm
Justin (mail):
People should try not to comment without reading the article or the comments to it. The question is not which party has the "bigger" tent but the merits and usefulness of the underlying study. As mentioned before, I and others have put forth so far unresponded-to arguments as to why the choice of questions, and not the political realities, created the answers to the posed questions.
1.23.2006 9:51pm
The Real Bill (mail):
I find it odd that anyone would dispute the idea that Dems and Repubs are statist. Forget Dems and Repubs, the vast majority of people in this country are statist. I don't have proof of this, but the nearly infinitesimal size of the Libertarian party is pretty strong evidence.
1.23.2006 9:56pm
Defending the Indefensible:
The Libertarian Party is marginal because the idea of libertarians running the state is ludicrous -- to libertarians! Most libertarians do not vote, they certainly do not run for office, and they would have nothing to do with a political party.
1.23.2006 10:05pm
Defending the Indefensible:
Further reply to The Real Bill:
Forget Dems and Repubs, the vast majority of people in this country are statist. I don't have proof of this, but the nearly infinitesimal size of the Libertarian party is pretty strong evidence.
The vast majority of peopl in this country are apolitical. They do not vote. They do not run for office. And they have nothing to do with any political party. This doesn't mean they're mostly libertarians, because that would imply they have some deeply held and well-understood philosophical framework about it. Some do, for sure, but I think few. Most just don't care.
1.23.2006 10:09pm
Blar (mail) (www):
I wrote a criticism of this study at my blog back in December, particularly on the "narrow tent Democrats" issue. A more accurate summary of the results, I said then, was that there are some popular government programs and policies, many of which were part of the New Deal or the reforms of the 60s and 70s, that are designed to protect people's health and safety (e.g. the EPA, FDA, and OSHA) and provide resources to poor people (e.g. minimum wage laws, progressive taxation). The vast majority of Democrats in academia support these programs, while Republicans have more varied views. In other words, Democrats come out as less diverse because there are several separate questions about similar programs and policies that are close to the heart of what Democrats stand for. Many of these are successful programs that are also widely supported by the general public. What's the problem?

A more basic problem with this research is that the design of the study really doesn't allow you to draw conclusions about the narrowness of the parties' tents. Once you've decided that you want to use the variance in their responses to some questions as the measure of each party's tent narrowness, you have to decide what questions to put on your questionnaire. Obviously, the choice of questions to include will affect your measure of tent narrowness. So how you choose your questions is very important. In order to produce meaningful results, then, you have to have some reliable procedure for choosing what questions to include, which will require defending a position on how to produce a "fair" set of questions to investigate tent narrowness.

As far as I can tell from the study, you had no method, no procedure, beyond coming up with questions that seemed important to the authors and that could be scored on a libertarian-statist scale. At some point, you looked over the questions and decided "nope, I don't see anything that seems unfair to me." That isn't good enough. That's not how you produce replicable research. You should look into more methodical ways of creating questionnaires, maybe using factor analysis on a large set of questions so that your subjects' responses provide a systematic way to categorize policy issues and pick out the questions that are most representative of each policy area.

You're also trying to go beyond measuring the diversity of opinion on each side of the political aisle. You're at least making suggestions about the causes of that diversity (or lack of diversity) and about whether it is good or bad, as you portray narrow-tentedness as indicative of "a party line" or a lack of "diversity ... [on] political/policy ideas and values." Talking about a "narrow tent" or a "party line" implies that the people who hold the majority view within the group are actively opposed to contrary views, trying to keep people with differing views out of the group or to get them to change their views to match those of the majority (or at least to pretend to hold the majority views). But you give no argument in favor of this portrayal. Maybe people who oppose the FDA naturally gravitate away from the Democratic party (and maybe there aren't all that many of them to begin with). It's also not always clear when diversity is something good and important, and when it is bad, neutral, or relatively inconsequential. If most of the public shares some view (e.g. that some existing government department should continue to exist), is it a problem if most academics share that view? If diversity of "political/policy ideas and values" is important, how do we decide which of the existing laws and policies should have a large group of opponents in academia? At the very least, this research should be comparing academics with the general public in order to provide some context for interpreting the distribution of opinions among academics.

It's up to you to make an argument for why your 18 questions are a good measure of diversity of political opinion - and of the valuable, desirable kind of diversity. You need to have an argument for why your method of creating a questionnaire reliably creates a good measure. The burden of proof is on researchers to demonstrate that their research is producing meaningful results. In this case, the critics of the research have a strong argument that the responses to those 18 questions don't have the meaning that you're trying to give to them.
1.23.2006 10:11pm
Hiram Hover (www):
As to #6 -- It doesn't appear that, in Table 6 of your paper (p. 22), you controlled for highest degree attained in distinguishing between those employed inside and outside the academy, and that would seem to have a heavy bearing on where one lands a job (on p. 5, you provide evidence that 95% of the academically employed hold PhDs; I don't see where you give a similar figure for the non-academically employed, but I'm guessing it must be lower--especially in a field like history).

I hope you'll correct me if I'm reading that incorrectly. But if I'm not, then in fact your evidence isn't about academic vs. non-academic employment of "Republican-voting PhDs," as you claim, but about Republican-voting members of professional societies, who may or may not hold PhDs. It certainly can't be "knock-down evidence" if you don't control for highest degree--I hope you'll present that evidence if you have it.
1.23.2006 10:34pm
Bezuhov (mail):
"The point is, all the Republicans I choose to associate with are socially liberal. They are pro-choice, don't want ID or creationism taught in schools, could care less about school prayer, don't believe in abstinence only sex education or that pre-marital sex is necessarily sinful, are supportive of public schools, and think Pat Robertson and his ilk are regressive morons."

But these views aren't liberal for the aborted baby, or if there really is emergent intelligence involved in evolution, or for people curious about investigating it, or for people who consider prayer essential to their lives or sex damaging to those too immature to handle it, or for those who would like the option the rich enjoy of choosing their children's schools, or for those who are uncomfortable with labelling an entire class of people "regressive morons." In fact, doing so is decidedly illiberal.

You and your buddies may be left-wing or right-wing as the case may be, but I'm sorry, you're a long way from liberal.
1.24.2006 1:36am
Dustin (mail):
Bez, liberal means many things, I suppose, but few consider pro-choice to not be more liberal a view than pro-life.

To want to 'reform' abortion away is reactionary, not liberal. I'm not speaking to the merits of abortion or any of the other stuff you are talking about, but most folks wwould consider a socially liberal republican to mean precisely what that quote you used described it as.

And in language, it relly only matters what people interpret words to mean. No need to think liberal open minded and sweet or anything like that.

You'd do better to be a bit miffed at the intolerance you quote. If someone flat out refuses to associate with socially conservative people, I can see why they'd think their positions based on hate or something. Truly most folks think their way is compassionate and intelligent. There is a lot of be gained in trying to understand why radically different ideas seem compassionate to others.

Was this study appropriate? Well, it was if only for making us conside this stuff. Perhaps Justin's questions are difficult to answer because it is impossible to please everyone with survey questions...let alone a definition of liberal.
1.24.2006 2:00am
Dissent:
"Think about it, very few Dems really favor free enterprise and all favor redist/welfare state/protect the weak type policies."

I completely disagree. There are a large group of Democrats who favor liberal trade and lean government. Likewise, a large group of Repubs. are as redistributionist as they come.

In what substantial ways do Republicans favor free enterprise more than Democrats?

Democrats favor "Protect the weak" type policies? Which prominent Republicans have called for an end to Social Security or Medicare?

The notion that Republicans are less willing to favor "redistribution" is completely farcical. Perhaps 25+ years ago it was so. It sure isn't now.
1.24.2006 5:29am
Duncan Frissell (mail):
Good question. What are all those libertarian prof's doing at public universities?

There are private universities, private think tanks, and jobs like radio talk show host that would seem to be better matches for libertarians.

This is particularly true since government unis practice the reverse Robin Hood technique of robbing the poor to subsidize the rich.

Freder - Remember that full libertarians don't have a position on the teaching of ID at public schools because they don't favor public schools. They don't have a public position on gay marriage because they oppose state marriage.
Likewise with any social issue conflicts that don't involve the criminal law.
1.24.2006 9:32am
Dan Klein (mail) (www):
Dan Klein's follow-up to the new 14 comments.

Justin, Blar, and frankcross continue to dis the 18 policy questions. Hiram Hover and Dissent raise other points.

First some broad responses.

I have been open about my ideological sensibilities. I ask that they be open about theirs. I am guessing that most of these five critics think of themselves on the left, call themselves liberal, and vote Dem or Green. Am I correct? As Myrdal argued, it would be helpful if we all disclose where we are coming from.

The two hot findings are (1) Dems less diverse and (2) Dems more statist than Repubs.

I ask the five commenters listed above whether they believe otherwise. I don't understand why leftists wouldn't be willing to say openly that academic Dem voters are more statist and less diverse than academic Repub voters. If you contest those statements, what evidence do you have?

Justin, your remarks are vague dismissals. In your first-round comments you suggested that somehow the questions produced misleading results. But why? The questions are not agree/disagree, but 5-point scale. You are vague about whether I am rigging the less-diverse result or the more-statist result, or both.

Blar, your comment and blog entry try to make a scandal of our being libertarian, but that doesn't get us anywhere. You too suggest that we are rigging things to get the less-diverse finding and the more-statist finding. RE rigging for statism, you ask why no questions about "homosexuality, adultery, abortion, civil liberties, marijuana, conscription." It would be nice to have had 19 questions, or 50 questions, but there are constraints on the respondents' attention. Notice that if we took these six topics, formulated a policy statement about each, and inserted them into the survey, they probably would have strengthened the less-diverse finding. Either way you are going to be unsatisfied, I think. Further, you want marijuana, but there was already a question on drugs (as well as one on prostitution and one on gambling). RE abortion, I avoided that because, as is well known, the voluntary/coercive reading of that issue is unclear, as the fetal life is such a unique matter and is the consequence of the actor's prior decisions (in fact, some libertarians are pro-life). Your new comment insists: "It's up to you to make an argument for why your 18 questions are a good measure of diversity of political opinion." You are resisting knowledge. The 18 questions treat a broad set of familiar policy topics. If I tried to spell some kind of algorithm that generated the selection of 18 questions, you would probably ask me for the higher-level algorithm that generated the algorithm, ad infinitum.

frankcross, like Blar and Justin, you insist on some compelling meta-argument for the 18 questions, and seem to me to be resisting knowledge. I didn't use Gallup questions because they are not formulated to get at the statist/libertarian continuum on the issue raised.

Two other comments:

Dissent, you suggest that Dems are just as favorable to free enterprise as Repubs. The issue is not Dem politicians v. Repub politicians. Rather, academics who vote Democratic v. academics who vote Republicans. On that, our results are very clear. Accept them for what they are.

Hiram Hoover, thank you for catching a minor misstatement in my memo. I said "Republican-voting PhDs who are members of the leading scholarly association in their field," but should not have confined it to PhDs. However, the point is fine thusly amended. Incidentally, we checked the data, and thought you might be interested to know the following percentages for highest-degree: For academics, PhD 95.3, Masters 3.9, JD 0.3, Bachelors 0.3, Other 0.3. For non-academics, PhD 69.5, Masters 19.3, JD 5.4, Bachelors 4.1, Other 1.7. As expected, members of the associations are mostly eggheads.

By the way, why the mystery names? My motivation to respond would be higher if you made yourself accountable by giving your real names.

Thanks all for reading and feedback. I will refrain from responding further.

Dan Klein
1.24.2006 1:49pm
Jeek:
It is beyond me how any self-respecting libertarian could suck at the teat at the public trough without his or head literally exploding. Shouldn't they be burning down that bastion of government inefficiency and corruption?

What are all those libertarian prof's doing at public universities?

These are ridiculous statements, if for no other reason than sheer practicality. There is literally no job in this country that is not in some way significantly affected by government policy and government money, and to restrict libertarians to some sort of "untainted" job means they could have no job at all. Even so-called private universities take a lot of government money, and to say that "true libertarians" shouldn't work in such places is simply absurd.

Maybe they - like Marxists - want to undermine the institution they oppose from within!
1.24.2006 2:40pm
byomtov (mail):
So the research finds that a significant percentage of Republican academics oppose government involvement in education, environmental protection, workplace safety regulation, and anti-discrimination policies.

And Klein and Stern decide that the headline is that Democrats are less diverse in their views than Republicans. Wow. Talk about missing the story.
1.24.2006 11:13pm
Blar (mail) (www):
Dan, let me start out by saying that I appreciate that you've come online here to discuss your research and to face a largely hostile crowd. To introduce myself, I'd categorize myself politically as something like a Democrat/liberal/progressive. I blog under the name "Blar" and comment all over the internet under that name - no mysteriousness intended - and I've decided not to have my blog &other online writings associated with any other name. I'm not any kind of expert in this sort of research, or anyone who you would know, but I do have some knowledge of research methodology in the social sciences. I've read your paper and put some thought into what I'm saying, and I'm trying not to make defensive, knee-jerk criticisms (He said bad things about Democrats but that's not true we're good!), and so I think you could benefit from engaging more directly with some of these arguments (though I understand if you want to stick to your word and not keep responding here).

I am not accusing you of any kind of intentional rigging of the questions. That would be a serious accusation against you and Stern as researchers, and it's not one that I'm making. I'm also not trying to use your libertarianism as a "gotcha", since obviously there is nothing about libertarianism or about this type of research that would automatically discredit a libertarian researcher. What I am saying is that many of the claims that you make are not supported by the empirical evidence in your paper, in part because your claims are overly ambitious and value-laden and in part because of flaws in your methodology.

One of the main issues here is that you are trying to answer such broad questions, like "which group has more diverse political views: Republican social science professors or Democratic social science professors?" There could be an extensive debate about how to even begin asking that question: how to decide what issues are relevant, how to select dimensions on which to compare people's views on these issues, how to scale those dimensions so that diversity on different issues can be compared meaningfully. Instead of narrowing down the question to one that is more well-defined and tractable to empirical research, you ignored the whole potential debate and tried to answer it all in one study, using 18 questions with answers on a 5-point libertarian-statist scale. Of course this one little study isn't up to the enormous task of showing which group of academics has more political diversity, and because you didn't have a methodology for one of the most important parts of the study (selecting the questions) it may not even be a very useful starting point for further research. (There is no infinite regress here. Methodologies for processes like determining which questions to include in some measure are open to criticism, and they may be revised over time or supported with statistics showing the measure's reliability and converging evidence showing its validity as a way to measure what it's supposed to be measuring, but there is no need to defend some new algorithm there.)

It's good that you've been open about your libertarianism, but that openness does not automatically erase whatever influences your political ideology might have on your research. I think that your political views leave traces in the design of the study. Many important political differences do not align with a libertarian-statist scale (you've provided a few examples in this discussion), but you act as if it's possible to draw conclusions about the diversity in political views of a group after only asking them questions that they answer on such a scale. Some of the political issues that you chose (like the existence of regulations on workplace safety, pollution, and medications) are not live political issues to most people (something close to a consensus has been established and the resulting institutions have become entrenched), but you consider them relevant to the measurement of political diversity because, to your libertarian eyes, they are important issues that should be open to debate. Someone with a different political view would've chosen different questions, and quite possibly gotten different results.

Some of the claims that you make in your paper obviously result more from your libertarianism than from your empirical results, like your closing call for a greater political role for libertarians, on the basis that libertarianism is the political philosophy that most closely matches the American ideal of freedom. In other cases, something similar is happening in a more subtle way. For instance, when you say that both parties are quite statist, that is only true because you're using libertarians as the standard of comparison - obviously most people are going to be more statist than libertarians, and, on questions where your libertarian views are out of the mainstream (like restrictions on hard drugs or regulation of pollution), significantly so. There is no reason to think that the midpoint on your scale represents any kind of meaningful "center", so the fact that both parties are on the statist side of the midpoint does not mean that there is a shortage of libertarian opinion (indeed, I'd bet that libertarianism is overrepresented in academia, relative to the general population), and the fact that Republicans are closer to the midpoint does not mean that they are more "centrist".

In some cases, there may be no political bias, but just a desire for your research to say more than it is able to. This may be why you go beyond comparisons of relative diversity between the two political parties to say that the Democrats have a narrow tent or that "campus diversity does not extend to political/policy ideas and values". Even if your methodology could allow you to make a meaningful comparison between the diversity of Republicans' opinions and the diversity of Democrats' opinions, and Democrats were less diverse than Republicans, that would not allow you to say that Democrats are not diverse or that they have too little diversity. Is an average standard deviation of .95 per question indicative of low diversity? How do you decide what level of diversity is high and what is low?

I could go on, but I feel like I'm repeating myself, so I'll leave it at that.
1.25.2006 2:09am
Bezuhov (mail):
Dustin,

Your repeated citations of what "few" and "many" think and evident belief that such opinions are dispositive are what I'm identifying as illiberal. The greatest liberals throughout history, going back to Socrates and most likely beyond, bravely held views that were far from majoritarian, and an important aspect of the liberal project in this country has been the protection of minority viewpoints, which you blithely trample upon in your original comment.
1.25.2006 7:52pm