Sunday, August 31, 2014

Attention must be paid

A few days ago, the Public Editor of the New York Times reported on a study done by Jack Fischer, a student at Binghamton University.  The basic conclusion of the study was that public universities got less coverage in the Times than private universities, controlling for other factors that could be expected to affect coverage.  In reading the story, I was struck by the list of other factors:  "The Times gives more coverage to colleges and universities that are highly ranked, larger, more liberal, and closer to New York.  That's probably not surprising, but after controlling for those factors....."  Size, distance from New York, and rankings [presumably US News] seem like good controls, but liberalism?*  If you think of the control variables as representing the coverage that different institutions "deserve," it certainly doesn't belong.  If you just think of other things that might affect coverage, I could see it as making some difference, but not as likely to be among the top factors.  However, there is something going on:  if you regress the logarithm of the number of articles on rankings, number of students, distance from New York (all logged), public/private, and the political rating, the t-ratio for college liberalism is 4.6.

So I added some other control variables.  The obvious one was research quality.  Presumably top research universities will be disproportionately represented in stories that report research finding or the opinions of "experts."    There are good, although somewhat dated, measures of perceived research quality from a survey of graduate departments conducted by the National Research Council in the mid-1990s.  H. J. Newton, a professor of statistics at Texas A & M, computed university averages, which are given here.**

Next I looked at the residuals from a regression of articles on rankings, size, distance from NYC, public/private, and graduate program rating.  The largest positive residuals were for American, NYU, Georgetown, Fordham, and Berkeley.  The largest negative ones were for Rochester, Worcester Polytechnic, Stevens Institute of Technology, Renssalaer Polytechnic, Purdue, and the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The residuals suggest two things:  first, that distance from New York isn't an adequate measure of the Times's geographical focus; second, that it gives less attention to technical universities.  So I added two variables:  one for location in the northeast corridor (Washington to Boston) or on the West coast, and the other for technical universities.  I defined both narrowly to minimize the chance of biasing things towards my expectations.  For example, my definition of technical schools included only places called "Polytechnic," "Institute of Technology," or mentioning a specific application (mines or forestry).  The estimated effects of both variables on coverage are highly significant, and when you include the political rating the estimate is considerably smaller than it had been and no longer statistically significant.  The reason that the controls matter is that the universities which are rated as more liberal tend to be on the coasts or to have highly-ranked graduate programs.

This doesn't overturn Fischer's basic finding:  with the new controls, the public/private difference is smaller but still statistically significant.

*The rating is from an organization called College Prowler.  I couldn't find much information on it, but it seems to be derived from surveys of students who signed up on their website.
**The NRC did another round of ranking in 2010, but they changed the methodology, and the resulting rankings were widely and deservedly regarded as essentially worthless.

Monday, August 25, 2014

I said it before

A little over a year ago, I had a post inspired by a New York Times story that referred to some research sponsored by Dove finding that only 4% of women considered themselves to be beautiful.  The Times recently had another story which referred to the same study:   "a mere 12 percent of women are satisfied by their looks and only 2 percent think of themselves as beautiful."  Neither story gave a link to the Dove study, but a 1999 Gallup poll did ask people to rate their physical appearance.  As I mention in that post, it's true that only 4% of women rate themselves as beautiful, but 40% say they are "attractive" and 53% say "average," leaving only 3% at "below average" or "unattractive."  Also, 66% of women said they were "generally pleased with the way your body looks."

While checking to see if I'd missed any other relevant questions, I found a 2000 Gallup survey with a question very close to one asked back in 1950 and discussed in this post:  "If you were a young man and looking for a bride, which would you prefer--a young woman who is very pretty or a young woman who is not pretty but has a lot of money."  The 1950 asked the question of both men and women--the 2000 survey asked only men.   Women in 2000 were asked if they were a young woman looking for a husband and had to choose between a handsome man and a man with money.  That's a substantially different question, so I limit the comparison to men.  

Comparing men's opinions in 1950 and 2000:

        Pretty  Money   Other
1950     34%     24%     42%
2000     60%     24%     16%

That's a big change.  The obvious explanation would be increased affluence--if you don't have to worry about making ends meet, you are less likely to focus on money.  Breaking 2000 opinions down by income:

                Pretty  Money Other
Under 20,000      46%    37%    17%
20-30,000         69%    21%    10%
30-50,000         59%    20%    21%
50-75,000         69%    23%     8%
over 75,000       56%    25%    19%

People with incomes below $20,000 per year are more likely to choose money, but beyond that income doesn't seem to matter.  I also considered education, but that had no clear connection to opinions (people with more education might have been a bit more likely to choose "other").  So the historical change seems to represent some kind of cultural shift, not a direct result of increased affluence and education.   If I find any more questions involving choices between money and other considerations I'll discuss them in a later post.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Antisemitism and the bien-pensant European Left

Following up on my last post, here are differences in the percent agreeing that "Jews exert too much influence on world events" by political party preference (in France):

Extreme left       40%
Communist        31%
Socialist             31%
Green                19%
Right                  34%
Nationalist          64%
No Preference    35%

Two differences stand out as large (and are statistically significant):  supporters of the nationalist right (the National Front and National Republican Party)  are more likely to agree and supporters of one of the green/ecology parties are less likely to agree.  Aside from that, there are no differences that aren't well within the range that could result from chance.

I look at France for two reasons:  there are lots of parties to choose from, so you can distinguish different kinds of lefts and rights, and the party differences in opinion are larger in France than in the other countries.  By and large, there was no clear difference between left and right.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Antisemitism in Europe?

The New York Times recently had a  news story and a Sunday review piece by Roger Cohen on antisemitism in Europe.  I remember seeing stories like this from time to time, but I don't recall any of them citing survey data, even though it's the sort of thing you could certainly take a survey on.  I looked an found a survey sponsored by the American Jewish Committee and conducted by Taylor Nelson Sofres in Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the UK, and the United States.  It was mostly about knowledge and beliefs about the Holocaust, but had a couple of questions that are pretty straightforward measures of antisemitism:  agreement or disagreement with the statements "Jews are exploiting memory of the Nazi extermination of the Jews for their own purposes" and "Now, as in the past, Jews exert too much influence on world events."  The percent who agree or strongly agree (of those who have an opinion) for the nations:

             Exploiting       Influence
UK              27%                32%
US              27%                33%
Sweden          37%                30%
France          33%                38%
Germany         46%                40%
Austria         45%                47%
Poland          52%                60%

Speaking of "Europe" in general is misleading--opinions in Britain are no different from the US, and those in Sweden and France are not much different.  But negative views of Jews are a lot more common in Austria, German, and especially Poland.

The stories also suggested that that there was a difference in the social bases of antisemitism--that it was found among educated people or what Cohen called the "bien-pensant European left."  If we limit it to college graduates (or the equivalent):

                Exploiting       Influence
US               22%                24%
France           31%                16%
UK               25%                23%
Sweden           31%                29%
Austria          36%                33%
Germany          50%                31%
Poland           48%                49%

Compared to the average person, collage graduates are somewhat less likely to have unfavorable attitudes in all nations.  There's one case in which the are more likely to have unfavorable attitudes (Germany and exploiting the memory) and one in which they are substantially less likely (France and influence on foreign affairs).

The survey also has data on party preference, but that will take more effort to sort out, so I'll leave it for another post.

[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]

Monday, August 4, 2014

Gender stereotypes

The survey discussed in my last post also included a question:  "suppose you could only have one child.  Would you prefer that it be a boy or a girl?"  Opinions about which sex is more courageous, intelligent, and creative help to predict preference.  Putting that together with the questions discussed in my last post, intelligence and courage seem to be the most generally valued qualities:  the predict preference in children, bosses, and views about women in politics.  What predicts opinion about which sex is more intelligence and courageous?  I tried a few standard variables.

Gender:  women tend to be more favorable about women (for example, 43% of women think women are more intelligent, and only 14% think men are more intelligent, with the rest saying no difference; among men,opinions are split 29%-29%).

Education:  no effect on opinions about which sex is more intelligent; more educated people less likely to think men are more courageous.

Age:  not much difference; people aged 18-29 are less likely to say "no difference"

Political views:  liberals have more favorable views of women.

I thought that there might be some tendency for younger people, more educated people, and liberals to say "no difference," whether because of egalitarianism or "political correctness."  But that wasn't the case--in fact, younger people were less likely to say that there was no difference.  As I discussed in a post a few years ago, people seem just as willing to offer generalizations about gender differences as they were 50+ years ago, although the content of those generalizations has changed.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Who's talking?

I remember hearing about some study finding that women spoke an average of 20,000 words per day while men spoke only 7,000.  It's hard to get an accurate count of something like that, so I figured it was based on a small non-representative sample.  According to a recent story in the New York Times, it probably wasn't based on any kind of sample:  it seems that the numbers were just invented.

The story went on to suggest that "this stereotype may dovetail with the idea that what women have to say isn’t important — that it’s 'fluff,' and that "such sterotypes [may] make women less likely to speak up, or men less likely to hear them..."  I had a different impression--that it was associated with the idea that women had more "emotional intelligence" than men.  A 2000 Gallup survey contains has some relevant information.  It listed a number of characteristics and asked if each was "generally more true of men or more true of women" (people could volunteer that there was no difference).  It also asked if "the country would be governed better or governed worse if more women were in political office" and "if you were taking a new job and had your choice of a boss would you prefer to work for a man or a woman?"  The characteristics were:  aggressive, emotional, talkative, intelligent, courageous, patient, creative, ambitious, easy-going, and affectionate.  77% say women are more talkative, 11% say men, and 10% say no difference, which is about the same as when the question was first asked in the 1940s.

Opinions about which sex is more intelligent, courageous, and patient help to predict opinions about whether more women in office would mean better or worse government.  Opinions about which sex is more intelligent, courageous, and easy-going help to predict preferences about a man or woman as boss.  That is, people who see women as more intelligent, courageous, patient, or easy-going are more likely to think that the country would be governed better or prefer a woman as a boss.  The others, including talkative, do not have a statistically significant relationship.  (For what it's worth, the estimates for talkative are positive --favorable-- with t-ratios of 1.3 and 1.0).

You might wonder if belief that woman are more talkative is part of a pattern, going with negative views about women's intelligence, courage, etc.  It has a significant negative association with courageous--that is, people who see women as more talkative tend to see men as more courageous--but not with views about which sex is more intelligent, easy-going, or patient.  Overall, the correlations with opinions about other qualities were low.

So in conclusion, the stereotype doesn't seem to matter much either way.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Another "don't know" problem

When looking at the tabulations for the questions in my last post, I noticed a difference in the percent of "don't know" answers of self-described liberals and conservatives.  I then checked the others to see if the pattern persisted.  It did, and there are strong parallels between the gender and liberal/conservative differences.  I'll give the average for the eleven questions to make it simpler:

                    Correct     Incorrect      DK
Liberals              38%          33%         29%
Men                   35%          31%         33%
Conservatives         31%          28%         40%
Women                 30%          29%         41%

Liberals and men give more correct answers, more incorrect answers, and fewer don't knows.  The ratio of correct to incorrect answers is about the same in all groups (slightly higher among men and liberals).

So what's going on?  Although I still think my point about gender differences from the last post is partly correct, it seems to be incomplete.  My interpretation:
 (a) People sometimes interpret "conservative" to mean "cautious" (as I've discussed in other posts, a significant number of people seem to understand liberal and conservative in non-political senses)
(b) differences in "don't knows" don't involve people who know or have no idea, but people who "sort of" know, or could make a fairly good guess.  Conservatives and women who are in that middle group may be less likely to venture an answer.

Some insight is provided by the question:   "Which one of the following people is not a college dropout:   Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, designer Ralph Lauren, entertainer Ellen Degeneres, Apple founder Steve Jobs, President Calvin Coolidge, movie mogul David Geffen, and oil magnate John D. Rockefeller?"
It seems safe to assume that very few people definitely knew the true answer or confidently believed an incorrect answer.*  But you could apply some pieces of common knowledge (e. g., that a lot of people who became rich from computers or the internet were college dropouts) to make an educated guess.   So the group differences in "don't knows" were essentially a matter of willingness to try.  

                    Correct     Incorrect      DK
Liberals              20%          43%         27%
Men                   14%          53%         33%
Conservatives          8%          50%         42%
Women                 11%          44%         45%

Men were more willing to try than women, but there was little or no difference in the probability of getting it right if they tried.  Conservatives were less willing to try than liberals. Given the fairly small number of liberals and large number of don't knows, the liberal/conservative differences in the conditional probability of getting it right, although large, are not statistically significant.  

*Coolidge graduated from Amherst College, so I count him as the correct answer.  I'm not sure it's accurate to call Rockefeller a college dropout--see his biography here--but he didn't have a college degree.