Friday, November 16, 2012

Education and the isms

The Pew survey mentioned in my last post asked people for their reactions to six terms:  socialism, progressive, liberartian, capitalism, liberal, conservative.  Here are scores for the reactions to each.  For example, among people who didn't graduate from high school 50% had a positive reaction to "socialism" and 48% had a negative reaction, for a score of 50-48=+2.  (The remaining 2% said they were neither positive nor negative--there were also people who said they didn't know, but I exclude them).
              Socialism  Progressive Libertarian  Capitalism Liberal Conservative
No HS           +2          +51         +10          -10      +27        +39
HS             -30          +49          -7           -8       +2        +47
Some College   -36          +57         +18           +2      +16        +35
College Grad   -38          +40          -6          +39       +1        +28
Grad School    -38          +42         -14          +59      +27         -1

Education makes people more negative about socialism, progressive, libertarian, and conservative, and more positive about capitalism.  "Liberal" is more complex:  people with the least and most education are more positive than people with moderate amounts.  Reaction to capitalism is the most strongly affected by education.   Among people with graduate education, capitalism gets the most positive reaction among all these terms; among people without a high school degree, it gets the least positive This is a surprise, since a classic theme in conservative thought is that education makes people more critical of capitalism (or in some accounts, makes them think that they could  run things better than the market).  

Some of the difference probably is just  a matter of schools teaching people that "capitalism" is a name for the economic system we have in America, not changing views about that system.  But it's hard to argue that the educational system is turning people against capitalism. 

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