Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Risk and Gender

Last month, I gave figures for opinions on a question that was asked in several European nations in 1989 and in the United States a couple of years later: "In general, how would you most prefer to be paid--on a fixed salary basis, so that you always know how much you will earn--or mostly on an incentive basis which will allow you to earn more if you accomplish a lot, but may result in less earnings if you don't accomplish enough."  Europeans were generally more likely to prefer a fixed salary.  In response to a request, here are the figures for men and women separately:

                          Men choosing                 Women choosing                   Difference
                          Salary                                 Salary    

US                       35%                                   48%                                13%
France                  67%                                  75%                                   8%
Britain                   58%                                  75%                                17%
Spain                    70%                                  76%                                  6%
W. Germany           78%                                  83%                                  5%
E. Germany           57%                                  70%                                 13%
Italy                       31%                                 69%                                  38%

In every nation, women are more likely to prefer a salary.  The largest "gender gap" is in Italy, but I'm suspicious of the figures for that country, as I mentioned in a previous post.  The differences could reflect gender differences in basic attitudes towards risk, but it's also possible that men are more used to working in jobs with incentive payments (which is more common in sales an factory work).

Saturday, October 26, 2013

American Exceptionalism?

Since 1991, a number of surveys have asked people if they agree or disagree with the statement "I admire people who get rich by working hard."  Usually about 50% "completely agree" and 40% "mostly agree."  Agreement is uniformly high among different demographic groups; it has some connection to political views, but even among liberals about 80% agree.  Is this another case of "American exceptionalism"?

The question was also asked in the 1989 Pulse of Europe survey, which I discussed in an earlier post.  The results:

                     UK     France    Italy    Spain    W. Germany   E. Germany
Completely agree     60%      59%      61%      63%       37%         40%
Mostly Agree         32%      27%      30%      28%       49%         49%

That is, there is less enthusiastic agreement in the US than in Britain, Italy, Spain, and even France.  Only the Germans have a lower percentage of "completely agree."  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Not just Harvard

My last post observed that Harvard students (and faculty) were mostly Republican until the 1940s, and pretty evenly divided in the 1950s and 1960s.  Of course, Harvard is not necessarily typical of American universities.  In the course of writing that post, I discovered the straw poll organized by the Daily Princetonian in 1936, which included 92 colleges.  I haven't been able to find the full list of results, but I found that the Princetonian organized a poll of 47 colleges and universities in 1932 (see the issue of October 28, 1932 in their archive). 

I divided the institutions into four groups:  (1) the South (2) elite private institutions outside the South (3) public institutions outside the South and (4) other private institutions outside the South.  The distinction between elite and others was made by expert judgment (aka my off the top of the head impressions).  All of the public universities included were "flagship" state universities.  They covered a wide geographical range, from Maine to California (Berkeley).  The average vote shares in the four types:

            Roosevelt  Hoover  Thomas   Foster
Southern        72%     17%     10%       0%
Elite private   17%     63%     19%       1%
Public          31%     48%     20%       1%
Other private   24%     42%     33%       1%

The actual vote in the election was 57% for Roosevelt, 40% for Hoover, 2.2% for Thomas (Socialist) and 0.3% for Foster (Communist).  Support for Hoover was much higher in elite private universities than among the general public.  Hoover's share in other universities was pretty similar to the popular vote for their region (Hoover got 42% of the vote outside the South but only 19% in the South).  

Support for Thomas was much higher in all types of universities than in the general public.  I expect that most of his supporters would have gone for Roosevelt as a second choice, and might picked Roosevelt if they were really voting, since third party sympathizers often are swayed by "don't waste your vote" arguments. Nevertheless, the Socialist party does seem to have been a serious rival to the Democrats on college campuses at that time.

PS:  I have put the totals for individual colleges in an Excel file.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Those were the days

In my last post, I said that "Before the 1960s, the political atmosphere at most [universities] was moderate to conservative."  There were only a few surveys of students or faculty before the 1960s, and as far as I know none of them asked general questions about political views.  However, "straw votes" have regularly been held at Harvard University since the 19th century, and information about the results can be found in the Harvard Crimson archives.  Participation seems to have been high, and people appear to have taken them pretty seriously--there weren't many votes for "joke" candidates, and support for major-party candidates didn't swing wildly depending on whether they had Harvard affiliations.

Between 1884 and 1948, the Republicans won the Harvard poll every time except 1912, when Theodore Roosevelt ran as an independent and split the Republican vote.  In the 1950s, things got closer:  Adlai Stevenson (D) won a narrow victory in 1952 (although the Harvard Republican club charged that there was voter fraud), then Eisenhower (R) came back to win narrowly in 1956, and then Kennedy (D) won in 1960.  Kennedy's victory was solid but not overwhelming--Nixon got over 40% of the vote.  In 1964, the Republican vote fell to 14%, and in 1968 it fell further, to 11% (less than the combined vote for various minor left-wing candidates).  Since then, the Democrats have won the Harvard poll every time except 1980 (when the Independent John Anderson won).

Some other notes:
1.  Other colleges conducted similar votes, at least in some elections.  One of the most elaborate ones was the "National Collegiate Poll" in 1936, which seems to have included about 50 colleges and universities.  Franklin Roosevelt won, but his 53% was well below his share in the real vote (61%).  Roosevelt did well in the South and most urban universities, but New England went heavily for the Republican.
2.  Yale and Princeton were more strongly Republican than Harvard.  In 1960, more than 70% of the Princeton students chose Nixon over Kennedy.
3.  Faculty were also allowed to participate in the straw vote, and their votes were sometimes reported separately.   The faculty leaned Republican, but were less consistent than the students.  For example, the faculty went for FDR in 1936 and 1940, but overwhelmingly favored Thomas Dewey (R) in 1948 (no vote was taken in 1944).
4.  The socialists got significant support beginning in the 1920s.  In 1912, when the Socialists reached their peak in the actual vote with 6%, they got only 3% of the Harvard vote.  In 1920, the actual vote for the Socialists fell to 3%, but Harvard support rose to 6%.  In 1932, Norman Thomas (Socialist) got 2% of the actual vote but 19% of the Harvard vote, almost equal to FDR.  In 1948, Thomas got only 0.3% of the actual vote but 7% at Harvard.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The making of wacko birds

A lot of people think of the time since the late 1970s as a conservative era.  But Ross Douthat observes that many conservatives don't see it that way.  In their view, they've been able to hold the line against the welfare state (aka "Leviathan"), but not to roll it back, and if they relax their vigilance for a moment, it will start advancing again.  This helps to explain the vigor with which they've resisted health care reform:  they figure that if it gets established, there will be no going back (Ted Cruz and Michele Bachmann have said something like that).  

The New York Times recently gave a list of twenty "Republicans Standing Their Ground":  House members who pushed for delay or defunding of the health care law as a condition for passing a budget resolution.  I looked up their biographies on the website of the US Congress.  They're a well-educated group:  nineteen have college degrees and sixteen have graduate degrees.  The quality of the institutions is high, too.  Twelve have undergraduate degrees from colleges or universities ranked as "most competitive," "highly competitive plus," or "highly competitive" by Barron's, and most of the rest are from places I would characterize as pretty good.  

I think that there may be a connection between these two points.    A large majority of college faculty and administrators are liberal, and this is especially true at "elite" institutions.  In that kind of environment, it's understandable that conservatives will come to think of themselves as resisting a powerful "establishment."
Universities have not always been dominated by liberals.  Before the 1960s, the political atmosphere at most of them was moderate to conservative.  So older generations of conservative leaders would not develop the sense of being embattled.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Another post in honor of the government shutdown

In 1992, an ABC News poll asked people if they agreed or disagreed with the following statement:  "Whatever its faults, the United States still has the best system of government in the world?"  The question has been repeated several times since then by various survey organizations.  The results:

                     Agree   Disagree   DK
April 1992        85%    14%       1%
Sept  1994       84%    13%       3%
April  1996       83%    15%        2%
Dec   2000       89%    11%        1%
Dec   2007       81%    17%        1%
Sept  2010       77%    21%       2%
Aug   2011       77%    21%       2%

There's very little variation, although the last three times have produced the lowest rates of agreement. The last time it was asked was shortly after the debt ceiling crisis of 2011 was resolved.  In 2000, it was asked a few days after the Supreme Court ruling against a recount in the presidential election. I hope that someone has asked it during the current standoff, and that someone asks again right after it is resolved.