Long time readers know that it’s trivially easy to extract information from the GSS that political moderates and independents are not as intelligent as partisans and ideologues. New readers are not always familiar. A comment:
#8 Do you have something to back up the idea that independents are less intelligent? If anything, I would’ve expected the opposite- that independents are capable of thinking for themselves instead of following the party line.
First, a quick review of the data. I used two GSS variables, PARTYID and POLVIEWS, and limited the sample to non-Hispanic whites after the year 2000. I removed those of “Other party” as well. Finally, I crossed that against vocab score results, which correlates with intelligence with a value of 0.70. It is rather obvious that middle-of-the-roaders are not as bright:
Obviously the news over the past week has been filled with the events in the Middle East, and the broader Muslim world, in reaction to an anti-Muslim film. I think the most eloquent commentary is from The Onion (NSFW!!!), No One Murdered Because Of This Image. That being said, there are some serious broader issues here. A friend of mine who lives in India (he is Indian American, though raised for several years in India, so not totally unfamiliar with the culture) has expressed to me his frustration with having to defend American liberalism in a society where American liberalism is an abstraction, rather than concrete. The frustration has to do with the fundamental divergence in basic values. For example, his interlocutors have argued to him (he is a practicing Christian of libertarian political orientation) that if someone committed an act of blasphemy against his faith of course he would react in anger and violence. And yet of course the clause “and” is false, though he is greeted with skepticism when he asserts he wouldn’t react violently. As a matter of fact I can attest to the reality that he wouldn’t react angrily necessarily, because in interactions where I’ve made casually blasphemous comments he’s only rolled his eyes. Just as Americans have a vague, even misleading, understanding of the broader historical forces which engender resentment of American hegemony in the broader world, so many non-Americans lack a proper awareness of the broader historical forces, and cultural reality, of the particular American radicalism and extremism in the domain of free expression.
A few years ago I put up a post, WORDSUM & IQ & the correlation, as a “reference” post. Basically if anyone objected to using WORDSUM, a variable in the General Social Survey, then I would point to that post and observe that the correlation between WORDSUM and general intelligence is 0.71. That makes sense, since WORDSUM is a vocabulary test, and verbal fluency is well correlated with intelligence.
But I realized over the years I’ve posted many posts using the GSS and WORDSUM, but never explicitly laid out the distribution of WORDSUM scores, which range from 0 (0 out of 10) to 10 (10 out of 10). I’ve used categories like “stupid, interval 0-4,” but often only mentioned the percentiles in the comments after prompting from a reader. This post is to fix that problem forever, and will serve as a reference for the future.
First, please keep in mind that I limited the sample to the year 2000 and later. The N is ~7,000, but far lower for some of variables crossed. Therefore, I invite you to replicate my results. After the charts I will list all the variables, so if you care you should be able to replicate displaying all the sample sizes in ~10 minutes. I am also going to attach a csv file with the raw table data. As for the charts, they are simple.
- The x-axis is a WORDSUM category, ranging from 0 to 10
- The y-axis is the percent of a given demographic class who received that score. I’ve labelled some of them where the chart doesn’t get too busy
All of the charts have a line which represents the total population in the sample (“All”).
Update: There was a major coding error. I’ve rerun the analysis. No qualitative change.
As is often the case a 10 minute post using the General Social Survey is getting a lot of attention. Apparently circa 1997 web interfaces are so intimidating to people that extracting a little data goes a long way. Instead of talking and commenting I thought as an exercise I would go further, and also be precise about my methodology so that people could replicate it (hint: this is a chance for readers to follow up and figure something out on their own, instead of tossing out an opinion I don’t care about).
A questioner below was curious if vocabulary test differences by ethnic and region persist across income. There’s a problem with this. First, the INCOME variable isn’t very fine-grained (there is a catchall $30,000 or greater category). Second, it doesn’t seem to control for inflation. But, there is a variable, DEGREE, which asks the highest level of education attained. I used this to create a “college” and “non-college” category (i.e., do you have a bachelor’s degree or not). Because of sample size considerations I removed some of the ethnic groups, but replicated the earlier analysis.
Below are two tables. One shows the mean vocab score for region and ethnicity (for whites) for those without college educations, and another shows those with college educations. I decided to generate a correlation over the two rows, even though it sure isn’t useful as a quantitative statistical measure because of the small number of data points. Rather, I just wanted a summary of the qualitative result. The short answer is that the average vocabulary difference seems to persist across educational levels (the exception here is the “German” ethnicity).
There’s a variable in the GSS, GENESELF, which asks:
Today, tests are being developed that make it possible to detect serious genetic defects before a baby is born. But so far, it is impossible either to treat or to correct most of them. If (you/your partner) were pregnant, would you want (her) to have a test to find out if the baby has any serious genetic defects?
This is relevant today especially. First, the technology is getting better and better. Second, couples are waiting longer to start families. Unfortunately this question was only asked in 1990, 1996, and 2004. But on the positive side the sample sizes were large.
I decided to combine 1990 and 1996 into one class. Also, I combined those who were very liberal with liberals, and did the same for conservatives. For political party ideology I lumped strong to weak identifiers. For intelligence I used WORDSUM. 0-4 were “dull,” 5-7 “average,” and 8-10 “smart.” For some variables there weren’t results for the 1990s.
The biggest surprise for me is that there wasn’t much difference between the 1990s and 2004. The second biggest surprise was that the differences between demographics were somewhat smaller than I’d expected, and often nonexistent. Below is a barplot and table with the results.
In the comments below a weird fact came to light: it does not seem that liberal/Democrat reduced skepticism toward astrology vs. conservatives/Republicans can be explained just by a secularization, and therefore diminished Christian orthodoxy. There are two reasons for this. First, on a priori grounds most people are religious, liberals and conservatives. The difference between the religious and irreligious on this issue would have to be rather large, and the different apportionment across ideology to be striking, for it to drive the division which seems so robust. Second, within the results it seems rather clear that the gap between liberals and conservatives is most evident amongst the religious of both! In other words, secular liberals and conservatives tend to agree (and be skeptical) in relation to astrology. While religious conservatives are skeptical of astrology, as one would expect from orthodox conservative Christians, religious liberals are not. The table below shows some results.
Someone on twitter was curious about GOP attitudes toward astrology. I left the party breakdown out of the previous post because ideology accounts for most party differences. In other words, conservatives are more skeptical of astrology than liberals, and Republicans more than Democrats, but the second result just seems to emerge from the Republican’s greater conservatism.
|Astrology very scientific||Astrology somewhat scientific||Astrology not scientific|
Why are independents so gullible? It probably has to do with their lower average intelligence (this goes for moderates too). So I simply limited the sample to those with at least bachelor’s degrees to control for intelligence:
Over at Culture of Science Sheril Kirshenbaum posts a figure from the NSF displaying what proportion of those without high school educations and those with college educations accept the scientific status of astrology. It’s pretty clear to me that this is the ASTROSCI variable from the General Social Survey. It asks:
Would you say that astrology is very scientific, sort of scientific, or not at all scientific?
It’s also nice that this question was only asked in the latter half of the 2000s. So it’s timely in terms of demographic breakdowns. Speaking of which, here are a whole host of classes and their attitudes toward astrology’s scientific status:
At Culture of Science there’s a little discussion about whether acceptance of evolution indicates intelligence. Looking at the GSS data there doesn’t seem to be a strong causal relationship when you control for other variables. But there is a correlation. That correlation can be explained by the fact that, for example, people who are Biblical literalists tend to be duller than those who are not, and Biblical literalists don’t accept evolution (in fact, I’ve seen evidence that very intelligence Biblical literalists are more Creationist than their duller co-religionists, probably because they’re more coherent in their beliefs).
With that, I’ll leave you with a screenshot of the results for WORDSUM, a 10 word vocabulary test, against acceptance or rejection of human evolution from other organisms (note that the numbers below the proportions are weighted sample sizes):
I few years ago I complained that no one was using the General Social Survey web interface for blogging, a practice which probably can be traced back to the Inductivist (yes, social scientists use the GSS constantly, but they use it to publish papers, not blog posts). Kevin Drum noted my lament in late 2008 and promised that he’d revisit the GSS in the future. He hasn’t. That’s fine, there are 1 million things I mean to do which I don’t manage to get to. But still, it’s kind of depressing to me the amount of opinion people can express which they don’t bother to follow up on by using a web interface to a rich data source which requires no more than 1997 era browser skills.
There’s a lot you can do with the GSS interface, but I thought it might be useful to do something very simple so that people can see how easy it really is. Since most of the people I follow on twitter lean Left I see a lot of political chatter which is concerning to that segment of the population. For example there is a lot of talk about conservative white males and their lack of concern for global warming.
Can we explore this with any greater precision with the GSS? Yes we can.
In recent years, many scholars have explored the degree of polarization between red and blue states (red states are those carried by Republicans at the presidential level; blue states are those carried by Democrats). Some claim that red- and blue-state citizens are deeply polarized, while others disagree, arguing that there are only limited differences between the two groups. All previous work on this topic, however, simply uses difference-of-means tests to determine when these two groups are polarized. We show that this test alone cannot determine whether states are actually polarized. We remedy this shortcoming by introducing a new measure based on the degree of issue-position overlap between red- and blue-state citizens. Our findings demonstrate that there is only limited polarization—and a good deal of common ground—between red states and blue states. We discuss the implications of our work both for the study of polarization itself and for the broader study of American politics.
Generating a statistical construct of the distribution of liberalism and conservatism on social and economic issues the authors produced a set of plots which illustrate the differences between “red” (conservative) states and “blue” (liberal) states. In the figures below the blue line represents “blue states/regions” while the red dashed lines represents “red states/regions.”
The New York Times has a weird article up, Is Your Religion Your Financial Destiny?, which digests the Pew Religious Landscape Survey descriptive statistics on the demographics of American religious denominations. It’s kind of a strange piece because the basic correlations have long been known. The traditional rank order in the “Social Register” way of looking at it would have been Episcopalian > Presbyterian > Methodist > Baptist. The article itself is frankly kind of embarrassing in a 10th grade paper sort of way. For example, “That stands in contrast to the long history, made famous by Max Weber, of Protestant nations generally being richer than Catholic nations.” I think this sort of fact should be introduced very carefully to the general audience. One can posit plausible explanations for why staunchly Catholic Bavaria is one of Germany’s most affluent states, or why it is that Protestantism is much more popular among lower class Chileans, and still maintain a Webberian model, but that obviously isn’t possible in a newspaper article. But these realities are often totally surprising to people who aren’t too “information rich,” but who have heard of Webber’s thesis at some point. And let’s not get into the specific point that Webber was focusing on Calvinist Protestants in particular, rather than Protestants more generally! I probably am on the skeptical side of when it comes to evaluating the core thesis of the Protestant ethic, but that’s neither here nor there.
The piece could have addressed some serious possibilities of the correlation between particular denominations and wealth being due to a “virtuous circle” or some sort. For example, Episcopalians and Jews using their religious institutions as important social networks for career advancement and prudent investment tips and advice (don’t tell that to members of the Fifth Avenue Synagogue!). In the town where I grew up it was rather clear that particular types of service professionals whose business was built around rapport and trust, such as insurance salesmen, benefited if they were members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, which provided a relatively large built-in local client base.
A few interesting demographic breakdowns within a religious group which might invite a lot of explanation occurs with Jews. The following comes from the American Jewish Identity Survey 2001. There are three classes of Jews in this: Jews by religion, Jews with no religion, and Jews with another religion. The majority of the last were Christians.
One of the weird things I randomly noticed when querying the “TRUST” variable in the GSS was that men were more trusting than women. I didn’t think much of that, but take a look at this logistic regression:
|Trust in people, sample from after the year 2000|
|Pseduo R-square = 0.096||Pseduo R-square = 0.083|
The outcomes are “can trust people = 1″ and “cannot trust people = 0.” I removed “depends” (which is never more than 5-10% in a class anyway). For sex 1 = male and 2 = female, so you can immediately see that being a woman will reduce the odds of being trusting. WORDSUM, vocabulary score, and educational attainment go in the direction you’d expect. Interestingly controlling for education doesn’t remove the vocabulary effect. COHORT is the year you were born. Lower values indicate older individuals in the data set. Younger people are less trusting, so this makes sense. To my surprise on the individual level religion doesn’t seem that important.
Since the sample sizes for sex are huge I thought I’d compare sex differences in trust over the years by demographic variable.
Yesterday I made an admission of my lack of trust after the 2008 financial crisis. I should have been more precise and clarified that my collapse in trust has been particularly aimed at elites and “experts.” In any case, I realized that the General Social Survey has 2010 results available. This means that I could check any changes in public trust and confidence from 2008 to 2010! Below in the set of charts there is one that assesses trust in banks and financial institutions. The direction of change validates my specific implication. But it seems that my intuition was wrong in that American society had slouched toward more general distrust. This makes me less pessimistic about the direction of our culture and the future rationally (I can’t say that my visceral emotional cynicism has been abolished).
As you can see there wasn’t much change between 2008 and 2010. For the broad question of “can you trust people” I also decided to break it down by political ideology, education, and intelligence in two year rages, 1972-1991 and 1992-2010. There are noticeable differences in intelligence and education (less intelligent and less educated people are more distrustful), but not in terms of ideology.
After the bar plots there are another range of line graphs by year showing confidence in a range of institutions (including finance) from 1972 to 2010. It is interesting how much you can see short term volatility due to world events, which quickly recedes back toward the trend line.
My post earlier today prompted a few emails about the bizarre result that a substantial minority of Americans accept that the sun goes around the earth. The General Social Science variable is EARTHSUN, and it asks:
Now, does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?
The answers are “Earth around the Sun,” “Sun around the Earth,” and “Don’t Know.” A substantial minority of Americans answer #2. What’s going on here? This isn’t something limited to America. The same question has been asked internationally. I’ve underlined the geocentrism/heliocentrism question below:
I apologize for the small font. What you’re seeing though is that substantial minorities, on the order of 1/7th to 2/5th of people in the regions above give the wrong answer on whether the earth goes around the sun, or vice versa. Is geocentrism rampant? No, I don’t think so. My explanation is that many people don’t think scientifically habitually, so scientific facts aren’t background priors which pop up reflexively. On surveys which require a rapid first-blush reaction you may give the “intuitive” result, and only later realize that your answer was of course wrong. If you sat down and talked to most of the Americans who answered that the sun goes around the earth and showed them a solar system model and asked them about it I think they would be able to give the correct answer once properly primed in such a fashion.
Below is a side show generated from the GSS which measures reflexive geocentrism by demographic. I’ve combined the categories in the vocabulary test where N < 100 with their adjacent values. Remember that it is on a 0 to 10 scale, and correlates 0.70 with general intelligence. The educational category is broken down by the highest attained qualification.
The Audacious Epigone has a post up, Republicans are more scientifically literate than Democrats or independents are, where he reviews pro vs. anti-science attitude by party in the General Social Survey. He concludes that in fact Republicans are more scientifically literate across the issues than Democrats. Jason Malloy saw this trend four years ago in the GSS, and to some extent so have I. One point to keep in mind is that a few specific politicized scientific issues are very much the outliers in exhibiting tight partisan valences in opinion.
So another question: are conservatives more scientifically literate than liberals? If scientific literacy correlates with being Republican, and being Republican correlates with being conservative, shouldn’t scientific literacy correlate with being conservative? Not necessarily. Such correlations are not transitive. Generally what I’ve seen in the survey data is that Republicans tend to be more pro-science than conservatives. I think part of it is the voting by economic position which has become less stark in our culture, but still remains a force. In any case, my table to accompany AE’s is below. I used his variables:
ASTROSCI, SCIBNFTS, EXPDESGN, ODDS1, HOTCORE, RADIOACT, BOYORGRL, LASERS, ELECTRON, VIRUSES, CONDRIFT, EVOLVED, EARTHSUN, SOLARREV, EATGM, ICESHEET, SCITEST5, GRNTEST1, GRNTEST5.
For political ideology, it’s pretty simple: POLVIEWS(r: 1-3 “Liberal” ; 4 “Moderate”; 5-7 “Conservative”)
The percentages given are the correct science answer, or the more pro-science answer. If you want to know my criteria for that, don’t ask, just go to the General Social Survey website and enter in the variables above, and you’ll see the results and understand clearly how I categorized things.
Yesterday Michelle decided to put up a post with her own analysis of her ADMIXTURE results. With that in mind, I thought I’d revisit some results from my parents. After many runs of ADMIXTURE, both by myself and Zack, some consistent differences seem to crop up. To review, one of the big surprises from genotyping my parents is that both of them have about the same “East Asian” element of ancestry which is very distinctive from the conventional South Asian mix. Because both of my parents lack any oral history of recent admixture I posited that this element may be a uniform substrate common among eastern Bengalis, and that it was absorbed during the initial period of settlement and demographic expansion on the frontier in the period between 1000-1500 A.D. By analogy, low levels of Amerindian admixture persist across Brazilians, and African admixture among Mexicans, but because the admixture dates back several hundred years it does not seem to have percolated down to the present in oral history (though some old stock Brazilians of predominantly Portuguese origin have been able to infer Amerindian ancestry by looking at the church marriage records of their ancestors, and adducing that some women were natives due to common baptismal names given to such converts).
Since ADMIXTURE is sensitive to the genetic variance you throw into it in extracting out patterns, I created two pools with my parents in it. One was predominantly West Eurasian, and another was predominantly East Eurasian. In both samples my parents were Bengali A (father) and Bengali B (mother), and I included in the Gujarati_B and Pathan South Asian populations. Gujarati_B because it seems particularly South Asian, and therefore informative. The Pathan sample has less African admixture than the Sindhis or Makranis, and is not so isolated as the Kalash, Brahui, Burusho, and Baloch. For the East Eurasian sample I included Sardinians as the West Eurasian outgroup, while for the West Eurasians I included Japanese as the outgroup. Finally, I pruned the markers down to 65,000 SNPs. Below I report K = 6, as cross-validation determined that to be the optimal value for the number of populations.
In my post earlier in the week I mentioned the possible relationship between attitudes toward evolution and the causes and likelihood of Global Warming. I haven’t seen any survey data myself relating the two, so naturally I wanted to poke into the General Social Survey. Two variables of interest showed up, both from 2006:
1) GWSCI, “Understanding of causes of Global Warming by environmental scientists.” A five-point scale, from understanding “Very well” (1) to “Not at all” (5).
2) SCIAGRGW, “Extent of agreement among environmental scientists.” A five-point scale, from “Near complete agreement” (1) to “No agreement at all” (5).
I paired these up against EVOLVED, which is a simple True vs. False answer in relation the question as to whether “Human beings developed from animals.”
A quick follow-up to my previous post which points to the data that women tend to be more race-conscious in dating than men. There’s a variable in the GSS which asks if you support a ban on interracial marriage, RACMAR. Here’s the question itself:
Do you think there should be laws against marriages between (Negroes/Blacks/African-Americans) and whites?
There isn’t much surprising in the results for this variable. It was asked between 1972 and 2002, and support for a ban on interracial marriages dropped over time. Whites, old people, conservatives, and less educated people, tended to support these bans, as well as Southerners. But what about men vs. women? I’ve never actually looked at that. I limited the sample to whites; the number of blacks in the sample is small and wouldn’t alter the result, but I figured I’d control for race anyway. Support for such laws is in the 35-40% range for whites in 1972, before dropping off to 5-15% in 2002.
Here’s the trendline broken down by sex: