A recent piece in the New York Times Jason Weeden and Robert Kuzban tells us that self-interest influences political views. Along with some uncontroversial examples, there was one that caught my attention:
"Those who do best under meritocracy — people who have a lot of education and excel on tests — are far more likely to want to reduce group-based preferences, like affirmative action." This didn't sound right to me: if it were true, universities, especially elite universities, would be centers of opposition to affirmative action.
Since "affirmative action" can mean a different things to different people, I looked for questions that asked directly about test scores. There were't many, but I found one in a CBS News/60 Minutes/Vanity Fair survey from 2013. It asked "Which phrase comes closest to how you would describe the SAT tests that are used for college admissions in the United States: a successful equalizer, a failed ideal, a waste of time, or a necessary evil"? The first answer can be regarded as positive, the second and third as negative, and the last one as neutral. Using this classification, here is the breakdown by education:
Pos Neg Pos-Neg
less than HS 33 43 23 +10
HS 25 40 35 -10
Some college 22 44 34 -12
College graduate 21 48 31 -10
Grad School 17 44 39 -22
So people without a high school degree have the most favorable opinions, and people with graduate education are the least favorable. You get a similar pattern with income: people with incomes under $30,000 are the most favorable and those with incomes of over $250,000 (admittedly a small group) are most unfavorable.
Of course, the general point that a lot of opinions have a straightforward relation to self-interest is valid, but as this example shows, there are exceptions.
PS: I promised an examination of own vote vs. predicted winner in my last post. Own vote predicted 31 states correctly (that is, there were 31 states in which a majority of the sample said they would vote for X and X won), while the predicted winner actually won in 29 states. So it was a slight advantage for own vote, but not decisive.
[Data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research]