Who is left-wing, and who just thinks they are?

A University of Leicester study in 84 countries of 280,000 individuals concluded “the more educated on average believe themselves to be more left wing than their actual beliefs on a substantive issue might suggest.” The report didn’t mention this, but is the corollary true? Do the less-educated see themselves as more right wing than they actually are?

From the study

It is inaccurate to generalise about Red States and Blue States, religious and non-religious, or rich and poor voters. Rather, whilst in general richer voters care more about non-economic issues, they are also more polarized. That is, rich voters in Red States are more likely to be Republican, rich voters in Blue States vote disproportionately Democratic. In poor states it is the rich who attend church, the opposite is true in rich states.

Individuals who perceive corruption as being widespread are more likely to be left-wing.

One of the primary questions dealt with income equality. “Incomes should be made more equal vs We need larger income differences as incentives. How would you place your views on this scale?”

A related question asks “Imagine two secretaries, of the same age, doing practically the same job. One finds out that the other earns considerably more than she does. The better paid secretary, however, is quicker, more efficient and more reliable at her job. In your opinion, is it fair or not fair that one secretary is paid more than the other?”

On the first, I favor vastly more equal incomes and would answer “fair” to the second. Does that make me more right-wing that a “not fair” answer would? The report does say the questions are “meaningfully different.” For me, the huge and growing income disparities between the ultra-rich and the rest of us are unjust, often the result of corruption, and guaranteed to eventually lead to social unrest. That seems quite different from paying a competent secretary a higher salary.

Also, as a side issue, I tend to think that unions can be as troublesome as the capitalists they are supposed to rein in. That could be considered a right-wing stance but for me, it’s more of an anarchist position, that the problem is authoritarian buttheads controlling things.

The broad conclusion of the paper must be that individuals either choose not to, or are unable to, locate their ideological positions reliably compared to those of the positions of their compatriots. … This is further evidence not just that voters are far from fully informed, but that somehow voters consistently misperceive where they lie on the ideological spectrum. Tilley’s results suggest that uninformed voters sometimes support parties whose policies are not commensurate with their interests and views, these results suggest that this phenomenon is a consistent one across many countries.

One comment

  1. I spent two years in a union. my problem with it was the two premises that (a) everyone gets paid and promoted according seniority, not according to how good a job they do, and (b) in order to maximize work, labor should be done as inefficiently as possible. No wonder American businesses can’t compete– and no wonder that company no longer exists!

    But I’m with Bob: there is too much income disparity. That stems not from lack of unions, but from corporate globalization and a tax code and educational system that encourage lower and middle income workers to punch the clock rather than working for themselves.

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