Thursday, August 18, 2016

Looking in the Mirror

A 2012 Pew Global Attitudes survey asked people about their opinions of various countries.  Their were twelve cases in which they asked people about their opinion of their own country.  The averages, with "very favorable," "somewhat favorable," "somewhat unfavorable," and "very unfavorable" counted as +2,+1,-1, and -2:

*India         1.59
*Pakistan      1.59
*China         1.49
*Russia        1.14
*United States 1.07
Turkey         1.01
Germany        0.84
Britain        0.83
*Greece        0.67
France         0.31
Italy          0.20
Spain         -0.16

An obvious follow-up question would be how the opinion within the country compared to opinions in other countries.  The list of countries that were asked about differed among nations, making it difficult to do a rigorous comparison.  I indicated countries whose people regarded themselves a lot more favorably that people in other countries did with an asterisk.  Turkey could arguably be included in that group.

As far as ratings of one's own country, there seems to be a strong negative relationship to GDP--people in poorer countries have a higher opinion of their own country (the United States is an outlier in this respect).  Of course, GDP isn't necessarily the cause--another possibility is that richer countries tend to have more freedom of the press, and as a result  people become more aware of the problems of their own country.

Monday, August 1, 2016

In the long run, we are still not all free traders

Few people in politics are speaking up for trade agreements lately.  Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine have switched from support to opposition on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Donald Trump has always been opposed to the TPP, and says he would even scrap NAFTA.  Greg Mankiw has a piece in the NY Times proposing that public support for free trade will increase over the long run as average levels of education increase.  His rationale (drawing on research by Edward Mansfield and Diana Mutz), is that more educated people are more internationalist and less ethnocentric, and therefore more likely to support free trade.  I think this is true, and there's also another reason that he doesn't mention:  more educated people are more favorable to markets generally (I've discussed that in several blog posts and this article).

However, Mankiw overlooks an important point, which is that support for trade agreements is not all that strong even among people with high levels of education.  For example, in a 2009 question about whether trade agreements like NAFTA and the policies of the World Trade Organization have been good or bad for the United States,  net favorability (good minus bad) was +24,+9,+5, and +11 among people with no high school diploma, high school diploma, some college, and college graduate respectively.*  Among people with a college degree (or more), 44% said "good thing," 33% "bad thing," and 22% that they didn't know.

Why is there substantial opposition to trade agreements, even among educated people?  I think that it's because many people see economics in moral terms--they regard making tangible things, especially things that are important for life, as more valuable than other activities.  So economists can talk about comparative advantage all they want, but for many people the loss of manufacturing jobs matters more than any gains in services and finance.  It's possible that this is just a historical legacy--people are thinking of the kind of jobs their fathers or grandfathers had as the standard--but my guess is that it goes deeper. 

*That looks like no relationship at all, but if you control for race and ethnicity, there is some association.

Friday, July 29, 2016

There used to be a question

Since 1972, the General Social Survey has asked "Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can't be too careful in dealing with people?"  The question has been widely used in research, especially after the publication Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone, and it's been picked up by other survey organizations.  Since 2010, it's been asked in 27 different national surveys.

There's another question on trust that's not nearly as well known.  Until recently, I either didn't know about it or had forgotten about it.  It is "Do you think most people can be trusted?"  It was first asked in 1942, and then asked off and on until 1964.  After that it has been asked only once, when the GSS included it as an alternate form of its usual trust question.  The percentages answering "yes":
The lowest level of agreement was in 1983 (56%), but it was almost as low in November 1953 (57%).   The samples were not all that large, so you could probably make a case that the apparent differences between surveys in the early 1950s were mostly (or maybe all) sampling error.  For the same reason, the series doesn't tell us much about long-term change, since there's only one post-1960s observation (I'm not certain of sample size, but I think about 800).

There's one thing that would let us say more about long-term change, which would be if someone would ask the question today.  I'm surprised that hasn't been done.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Not about Trump

This post was inspired by a story about the scarcity of Republicans among prominent rock musicians.   However, it;s not about Trump, but about an idea in the sociology of culture:  that more educated people tend to be "omnivores," who like all genres, rather than liking just a few things.  Of course, this doesn't mean that more educated people like every artist better, but that they like "quality" artists from all genres.  I recently wrote about a 2009 Pew survey that asked people how well they liked various popular musicians.  My impression is that all of the musicians are pretty well regarded by critics, so the "omnivore" idea suggests that education should have a positive correlation with feelings about each one.  The correlations, ranging from highest to lowest:

Frank Sinatra      0.157
Beatles            0.144
Bob Dylan          0.119
Bruce Springsteen  0.099
Coldplay           0.092
Madonna            0.089
Aretha Franklin    0.087
Jefferson Airplane 0.074
Grateful Dead      0.053
Rolling Stones     0.042
Michael Jackson   -0.009
Jimi Hendrix      -0.014
Elvis Presley     -0.020
Kanye West        -0.064
Nirvana           -0.093

Education has a positive correlation with views of ten, and a negative correlation with five.  Eight of the positive correlations and only two of the negative ones are statistically significant (the standard errors vary, but are mostly about 0.03).  So the omnivore hypothesis is right in a general way--more educated people tend to like a broader range of musicians.  But there are striking differences among the correlations for different musicians.  

Two factors that might affect the correlations are when the musician was most popular, since education might increase the chance of being familiar with the older ones, and whether the musician was a tabloid celebrity, which might make educated people regard them less favorably (even though the question asked about the music, it's hard not to think about the general image).  I did a regression with my ratings of when they had their musical peaks and whether they were a tabloid figure, and found some support for both ideas.  But there's still significant variation left unexplained.  The fact that education has a negative correlation with ratings of Nirvana seems particularly interesting, since although they sold a lot of records, they made a point of being outside the mainstream and not being focused on popular success, qualities that would be expected to increase their relative appeal to educated people.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Geography of police shootings

The Washington Post has compiled a database of fatal shootings by police in 2015 and 2016.  Breaking it down by state seems like an obvious thing to do, but I haven't seen anyone do it, so here are the rates (per 100,000) by state.


New Mexico     1.6
Wyoming        1.4
Alaska         1.1
Oklahoma       1.1
DC             1.1
Arizona        1.0
Nevada         0.9
Colorado       0.9


Mass.          0.25
Pennsylvania   0.23
Maine          0.23
Michigan       0.22
New Jersey     0.21
Rhode Island   0.19
New York       0.15
Connecticut    0.14

The general pattern is clear: fatal shootings by police are most common in the West and least common in the Northeast.  The South may be a little higher than average, but doesn't stand out:  southern states range from 10th (Louisiana) to 35th (Virginia).  Of course, there are racial and ethnic differences:  27% of those killed were black and 18% were Hispanic.  But controlling for population composition would make the West stand out even more, since the black population is relatively small in those states.

Monday, July 4, 2016

What's left?

I have seen several articles saying that Donald Trump is "to the left" of Hillary Clinton on trade (e. g., this one by Fareed Zakaria).  The idea is that support for free trade is the conservative position, and that protectionism is the liberal (or leftist) position.  This idea seems hard to square with the history of trade agreements.  For example, NAFTA was negotiated mainly by the George H W Bush administration, then passed with strong support from the Clinton administration.  It was not a party-line vote:  in the Senate, Republicans voted for it by 34-10, Democrats against by 27-28.  Supporters included Ted Kennedy and Phil Gramm; opponents included Paul Wellstone and Strom Thurmond.

But that's about political elites--what about the general public?  In 2009, the Pew Research Center asked "In general, do you think that free trade agreements like NAFTA, and the policies of the World Trade Organization, have been a good thing or a bad thing for the United States?"  Among people who said they were conservative or very conservative, 38% said "good thing" and 43% said "bad thing"; among those who said they were liberal or very liberal, 49% said good and 31% said bad (the rest weren't sure).  Democrats were more favorable (44% good, 33% bad) than Republicans (39% good, 40% bad).

Does the conventional wisdom have it backwards?  Pew also asked the question in 2008.  At that time, Republicans and conservatives were more favorable.  For example, 41% of Republicans said they were a good thing (44% bad thing), compared to only 30% of Democrats (55% bad thing).  (Overall support for "good thing" was considerably lower in 2008 than in 2009--I'm not sure why).

There were some consistent patterns--people with more education were somewhat more favorable at both times, as were people in the highest income category (over $150,000).  But whether support for free trade was a "liberal" or "conservative" position seems to depend on the party of the president.  My interpretation is that most ordinary people, even well-informed people, don't have a very definite position--almost everyone is in favor of "free trade" as long as it's "fair trade," and almost no one knows enough about the details of particular agreements to be able to say if they are "fair trade."  In recent history, presidents have consistently been in favor of free trade agreements, so the position gets associated with its most visible supporter--the incumbent president.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Another way to look at discrimination

It's sometimes said that most whites believe that America is a "colorblind society," or even think there is more discrimination against whites than against blacks. I've had several posts on this general issue, looking at questions that asked directly (see this post for links).  This time I'll take another approach and look at responses to distinct questions about how much discrimination there is against blacks and against whites.  In 2005, a survey sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice asked) "Would you say there is a great deal of discrimination, some discrimination, only a little discrimination, or none at all against. . ." various types of people.  Blacks and whites were among those asked about, but were not close to each other.  Among whites, 48% saw more discrimination against blacks, 10% against whites, and 43% chose the same category for both.  In 2106, the American National Election Studies Pilot Survey asked "How much discrimination is there in the United States today against each of the following groups?"  The possible responses were "a great deal," "a lot," "a moderate amount," "a little," and "none at all."  This time, 52% saw more discrimination against blacks, 18% against whites, and 30% chose the same category for both.

The drop in the number choosing the same category is at least partly a result of the larger number of categories in 2016.  However, there is a clear change in the ratio perceiving more against blacks to more against whites, from almost 5:1 in 2005 to about 3:1 in 2016.  There were some differences in survey procedures--2005 was a random-digit phone sample and 2016 was a weighted opt-in internet panel.  That could make a difference, although I'm not sure of the direction.  Also, in 2016, the questions about blacks and whites were separated by only one item (Hispanics).  My guess is that if this made any difference, proximity would reduce the number of whites saying there was more discrimination against whites, because some would regard it as something they "shouldn't" say.

The general result fits with others suggesting that white perceptions of discrimination against blacks fell somewhat in the early 21st century.  The general estimate of the proportion seeing more discrimination against whites (10-20%) is about the same as with the direct questions.

PS:  for blacks, the 2005 percentages were 64, 3, and 33 (more against blacks, whites, same); the 2016 percentages were 80, 4, 17.

PPS:  The 2005 questions also were asked in 1996, but unfortunately the original data don't seem to have been preserved, so it's not possible to do a parallel analysis for that year.