« previous post | Main | next post »

May 17, 2005

hail stranger well met

Don Herzog: May 17, 2005

How acutely embarrassing that we manage to get by with a linear or one-dimensional political mapping that comes from seating arrangements in the French national assembly of 1789.  I refer, of course, to the hallowed left/right distinction that gives this blessed blog its name.

Last week, the Pew Research Center published a study proposing that the American public falls into 9 discrete groups.  Alas, it's still a left/right divide:  anyway they have 3 very strongly Republican groups, 3 very strongly Democrat, and 3 independent, moderate, or sullenly withdrawn.  But it's also an advertisement for how stunningly robust that divide remains.  The Pew researchers took a bunch of survey questions and used clustering techniques to come up with these divisions.  Roughly speaking, they played with the data to find groups of people whose responses to groups of questions were far away from the rest of the population.  They wanted to find powerful statistical correlations that also made intuitive sense.  And they did.

You can poke around the data yourself.  But I was most interested in the "enterprisers."  No, sorry, they don't sound like libertarians.  (50% of "liberals" support free trade agreements, but only 47% of enterprisers do.  Given the sample size, that difference doesn't look statistically significant, but still....)  They're closer to what social scientists have long and controversially branded as "authoritarian personality" types, a category repulsive for its blend of political criticism and medical pathology.  (Later that day:  in response to Tad Brennan and others, I emphasize that this is a complaint about the category itself, that conceptual way of carving the terrain, and no complaint at all about anyone who actually was grouped in the category.)  Regardless, they're 9% of the public and they claim to have voted for Bush by a margin of 92% to 1%.  (I say "claim to" not to challenge their enthusiasm, but because of the usual hazards of reliance on self-reporting.  The survey also reports that 74% of the general public voted in the last presidential election, but in fact just over 60% did.)

Here's the cluster of questions defining enterprisers.  They're far more likely to agree that:

  • Most corporations make a fair and reasonable amount of profit.
  • Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy.
  • Using overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world.
  • Poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.

Just for comparison, here's the cluster for which disproportionate approval defines "social conservatives," the 11% of the population who claimed to break 86% to 4% for Bush:

  • Homosexuality is a way of life that should be discouraged by society.
  • The growing number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values.
  • Poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.
  • Business corporations make too much profit.

You can immediately see how uneasy political coalitions hold together — and how they might splinter.  Tap resentment of the undeserving poor and the enterprisers and social conservatives rally to your cause.  Talk too much about profits and you antagonize one group or the other.

But back to the enterprisers who fascinated me.  They're overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, and wealthy (as wealthy as the "liberals" in the mapping).  83% think creationism should be taught along with evolution in public schools.  (62% of social conservatives would teach creationism instead of evolution.)  They're the most likely to approve of torturing suspects to gain information and the most likely to approve of pre-emptive military strikes.  They are the only group among the nine opposed to the government's guaranteeing health insurance.  Yes, really:  Pew reports that 65% of the American public favor or strongly favor "the US government guaranteeing health insurance for all citizens, even if it means raising taxes."  Dr. Frist, are you on the line?  Dr. Frist?  Hello?  Quick, someone call an ambulance:  Dr. Frist seems to have fainted.

And the enterprisers' responses are the most lopsided on all these questions, too.  They worry the least about the deficit, but are the most opposed both to raising taxes and cutting military spending to deal with it:  they're also the most in favor of cutting domestic spending to deal with it.  A sizable 63% of them oppose government programs to help women and minorities get better jobs and education.  A hefty 73% of them approve the Patriot Act.  A bulging 82% of them want all of Bush's tax cuts made permanent.  A colossal 90% of them oppose gay marriage.  (Only 84% of the social conservatives do.)  A whopping 92% of them want to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  You almost never see numbers like this in public opinion work.  I much doubt that this 9% of the public — or any other 9% — boasts well-informed views on these matters.  You might think there's not much to know about gay marriage.  But the merits of the Patriot Act? or drilling in ANWR?  You need to know a lot to have a reasonable view.  So those numbers suggest that something crudely ideological is going on.

I will astonish you by reporting that I am no enterpriser.  (You can learn your own classification with these questions.  Though some questions made me chafe, I came out "liberal."  So I may be boringly predictable, but at least I don't have to worry about David V.'s banning me from the blog.)  Still, I don't shrug and assume that I have nothing to say to these people
or that they have nothing to say to me.  I don't think of them as repellent beetles and myself as the judicious political entomologist.  (The Pew researchers are the entomologists here, and they have my species duly charted, too.)  And I wouldn't flaunt my private suspicion, which I confide in a whisper only to you, that the enterprisers' views are powerfully structured by gender, by a tough-guy or macho stance.  I don't think that they simply have "other values" and that we can't really argue about "values."  Instead, I assume we could have reasonable debate.

I might start, for instance, by pressing them on their views about government largesse to the needy.  I might find it useful to get them to grapple with the views and experiences of the 9% "disaffected," defined in part by being much more likely to believe that "Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people."  Facts are not just stubborn things; they're useful, too.  I echo Stephen Darwall's citationThe New York Times has just published suggestive data on class and mobility.

Or I might just ask:  guys (and remember, they are overwhelmingly men), what's so great about oil drilling in the Arctic, anyway?

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d834536ae669e200d83458ca4c69e2

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference hail stranger well met:

» Pew poll - do we really fall into 9 types? from blogs for industry
Over at Left2Right, Don Herzog ponders a Pew poll on political typologies. Don is particularly fascinated with Pew's creation of a typology called "Enterprisers": 83% think creationism should be taught along with evolution in public schools. (62% o... [Read More]

Tracked on May 22, 2005 4:16:48 PM

Comments

Posted by: Shag from Brookline

Let's get Starship Enterprise operable, load it with these Enterprisers and ship them off to Mars, where they can establish their dystopia.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | May 17, 2005 7:31:25 AM


Posted by: Carl

Hmm, I got an "upbeat." I guess I must not mean it when I say that American education isn't preparing us for competing in the global market place or that politic partisanship threatens to slowly slide America away from democracy…

Frankly, I think the test is virtually worthless for me. For virtually every question my real answer was either "depends," "neither," or "both," but I was forced to pretend to agree with one or another at random. I think in the end, they decided that I was upbeat, just because I said I have a good financial situation. Which is true, but hardly relevant to the survey, since I've found a job bilking the taxpayers of Japan not America…

Posted by: Carl | May 17, 2005 8:02:52 AM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Well, I got as far as question #5, and when I discovered I couldn't answer both that immigrants threaten American values and that they strengthen American society, I quit.

The answer to Mr. Herzog's question is, of course, because it's there. (How much does one need to know about ANWR to have a 'reasonable' view?)

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 8:05:39 AM


Posted by: Carl

Q 1. "Books that contain dangerous ideas should be banned from public school libraries" or "Public school libraries should be allowed to carry any books they want"

A: Censorship is a waste of time, since it makes banned books more popular, but the government does have a strong interest in instilling certain political beliefs in young people, namely a respect for the principles of the Constitution, Locke, Mill, etc. Multiculturalism is sort of overemphasized, but good in theory, as long as we recognize that diversity is good because people are the same at core (not really, but this a necessary fiction ).

Q 2. "Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside of our control" or "Everyone has it in their own power to succeed"

A: Depends. Some people get trust funds, some people pull themselves up by the bootstraps, some people try real hard and fail. We should build a society where trying hard is encouraged even if it doesn't always work out for everyone.

Q 3. "This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment" "This country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment"

A: Environment laws now are basically OK, though they should be revised from time to time, of course. The key to making a good environmental law is to cause the hidden costs of pollution to be born by the creators of that pollution. So, if I can make a plastic toy for 5¢ only by virtue of creating toxic waste that will cost society $50 worth of damage, I should be forced to pay society the $50 so that repairs can be made. In general, it's best to keep regulation costs at a level such that it's cheapest to do the Right Thing and not to just buy a politician and change the law.

Q 4. "It IS NOT necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values" or "It IS necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values"

A: For the prols, yes. For individual illuminati, no. For society as a whole, I'm with Eisenhower in saying that we need a belief in a God, and I don't care what God that is, so it would help set a good example if the illuminati believed.

Etc., Etc., on and on…

Posted by: Carl | May 17, 2005 8:16:36 AM


Posted by: too many steves

I had a similar problem as Ridgely - I'm unwilling to be defined (politically) by having to choose between extreme positions with which I disagree.

For example, it seems impossible, in this test/survey, to simultaneously believe that: people can improve their lives through hard work, that government reach and spending should be constrained, and that there are people in our society who need financial help or assistance. Part of the problem is the range of definitions for words like, "constrained", "hard work", "help", and "assistance".

So the reason you don't know any "Enterprisers" isn't that you live in a liberal echo chamber, rather it is that people who hold that compact little package of viewpoints don't exist in real life.

Posted by: too many steves | May 17, 2005 8:18:57 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

I hate surveys like this. They so taint the data they purport to collect. For example:

Most elected officials don't care what people like me think Well, elected officials don't give a flying fiddle what I think, but they very much want to get reelected. Is that the same thing as caring?

Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy I always love this one! It shows up every time. Those evil Republicans that care more about profits than dear old Gaia! How about "Stricter environmental laws and regulations are unnecessary because current regulations are doing fine; the real polluters are struggling their way up from the third world. How do we deal with that?

The government today can't afford to do much more to help the needy Oooo! Evil Republicans again! We shouldn't do it because it would cost money. Not because it's, like, not necessary and actually helps depress the achievements of the poor.

Nope. Can't go on. Vision blurring. Blood pressure rising.

Posted by: S. Weasel | May 17, 2005 8:20:13 AM


Posted by: mw

I came out as an 'upbeat' which, is suppose is right if any category is, but I found the test pretty frustrating to due to the false dichotomies. Military strength OR effective diplomacy?!? And how do you answer if you think many poor people have difficult lives but that inadequeate government beneifts aren't the main cause? Or if you believe in a free market of ideas but think elementary school libraries are special cases?

And even the fit with the 'upbeats' is pretty poor -- I disagree with them on gay marriage, bankrupcy, creationism, the ten commandments, and I lean toward voting for Dems. I think I want my own cluster.

Posted by: mw | May 17, 2005 8:38:44 AM


Posted by: Carl

Um, can we make up a label for people who think surveys like this are crap? That way, when they make the next survey, maybe they'll include something besides two equally disagreeable extremes.

I propose the label, "Normal People."

Posted by: Carl | May 17, 2005 8:40:14 AM


Posted by: sean

Well, there isn't time to go through these issues point by point, but to pick one: on the Patriot Act, regular readers of the Volokh Conspiracy would come away with a fairly positive view of that statute. Surely both the writers and the readers of the Volokh Conspiracy are at least as smart and as well-educated as Mr. Herzog.

I am puzzled, because I thought the point of this blog was a dialogue with the majority of Americans who don't share the views of left-wing academics, but this post, like so many, seems to consist of equal parts mockery and assuming what is to be proved. Not much of a dialogue, and surely not a persuasive one.

Posted by: sean | May 17, 2005 8:44:09 AM


Posted by: LPFabulous

Hmm... I am in the 1% of liberals who identify themselves as Republicans. I'd be tempted to side with S. Weasel et al and call the whole thing a disaster... except that I regularly identify simultaneously as a liberal and a Republican. So the test told me I am what I already thought I was. Golly.

Posted by: LPFabulous | May 17, 2005 8:44:09 AM


Posted by: noah

Pew has been outed as hiding its actions to create the appearance of a broad coalition in favor of McCain-Feingold type campaign finance reform and I for one think we were had.

I am surprised that DH fell for this crap.

Posted by: noah | May 17, 2005 8:57:13 AM


Posted by: Terrier

I love all these comments from these people who consider themselves so unique and special that they cannot be categorized! Guys, they make the questions inscrutable BECAUSE they want to see which direction you break! I sneakily suspect that sometimes Professor Herzog posts here for the same reason. The people that have already responded to bemoan classification are actually some of the most classifiable that regularly post here. Don, I would suggest that another attribute of "enterprisers" is an innate inability to be self-critical.

Posted by: Terrier | May 17, 2005 9:13:59 AM


Posted by: S. Weasel

There's nothing "inscrutable" about offering me two choices, neither of which reflects what I believe. And I "break" in the direction of not completing the survey because I believe it to be a put-up job.

Posted by: S. Weasel | May 17, 2005 9:19:11 AM


Posted by: Bernard

I propose a similar test with only one question the results of which are likely to be controversial.

'Do you prefer child molestation or terrorism?'

Those who choose child molestation fall into the 'molestor' category, while those who prefer terrorism are to be titled 'terrorists'. Anyone who can't decide which is better falls into the third category 'molestor-terrorists'.

I think the results are likely to uncover the sinister reality of life in the US.

Posted by: Bernard | May 17, 2005 9:31:42 AM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Terrier, the problem is that I simply don't break one way or the other unless I choose to read more into the question than is actually there. Put differently, I might break one way this morning and the other in the afternoon. What would that prove? It has nothing to do with claiming uniqueness at all. It has to do with challenging the usefulness of that process whether it was intentionally designed as such or not.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 10:20:26 AM


Posted by: Larry

What's especially intriguing about the Pew study is the reaction to it, particularly the heavy reliance of those identifying themselves as "liberals" upon group classifications. There's almost an essentialist tone to it. Don Herzog, for example, appears to believe that "enterprisers" isn't just some label pasted over a gerrymandered set of individual respondants, but rather a deep indication of inherent character flaws, conditioned by gender and race. Terrier even suggests that the critique of such essentialism is driven by another "innate" ability, or, in this case, "inability": to be self-critical! Fascinating, no?

Posted by: Larry | May 17, 2005 10:41:39 AM


Posted by: Aaron S.

I certainly hope that the actual poll that the Pew Center conducted was significantly more robust than this online sample. The online quiz seems tailored to place people into political extremes.

Posted by: Aaron S. | May 17, 2005 10:54:22 AM


Posted by: Stuart

Well, I found it interesting that the test itself forces you to choose "less bad" choices as opposed to correct ones. When I answered that way the results came back that I'm an "enterpriser." Then I read what an "enterpriser" is and found that the archetype looked almost nothing like me. So how useful is this test? I'm more of a classical liberal than anything else - is that an enterpriser?

Posted by: Stuart | May 17, 2005 10:59:48 AM


Posted by: Don Herzog

sean writes,

on the Patriot Act, regular readers of the Volokh Conspiracy would come away with a fairly positive view of that statute. Surely both the writers and the readers of the Volokh Conspiracy are at least as smart and as well-educated as Mr. Herzog.

But I do not claim that if you're well-informed, you oppose the Patriot Act. That's obviously crazy. I claim you ought to be well-informed to have a reasonable view. (And I'd add that getting all your information from a partisan source, even one as savvy as Volokh, isn't a great idea.) Ordinarily if you poll Americans on complex questions of that sort, they split, and you get lots of "don't know" or "refuse" responses. Not with the enterprisers, and that's interesting.

Meanwhile, of course these groups are pure statistical gerrymanders. No one walks around saying, "I'm an enterpriser." But it is nonetheless remarkable that if you define that group by disproportionate responses on 4 questions, they turn out independently to have extreme views on a bunch of other questions. The odds of that being pure random noise are vanishingly small. And I don't see any reason to believe that exploring the role of race and gender in these data commits anyone to any kind of "essentialism."

Like many or all of you, as I said, I chafe at the questions, too. And I tend toward skepticism about polling in general. But my skepticism is tempered by knowing, for instance, that politicians rely on them: unless you think they're all out to lunch and might as well be disembowelling chickens. What the actual views are of the crowd labelled "enterprisers," or any of the other crowds, remains an open question, because I don't doubt that they chafed at the questions, too. Mr. Ridgely suggests,

I might break one way this morning and the other in the afternoon.

Me too. But that kind of chafing too should be coming out in the statistical wash.

Some commenters believe that Pew is simply unreliable, or that this particular survey is an abomination. I guess they could have invented all this data, but I'd be surprised. And if you don't think they did, you have to have some story up your sleeve about the remarkably robust correlations they're reporting.

Finally, sean also suggests,

I am puzzled, because I thought the point of this blog was a dialogue with the majority of Americans who don't share the views of left-wing academics, but this post, like so many, seems to consist of equal parts mockery and assuming what is to be proved. Not much of a dialogue, and surely not a persuasive one.

The mockery in offer is being distributed pretty damned impartially: at the enterprisers, at me, at the left/right distinction, at David V (sorry, he really is the perfect host), at Pew. The only thing here that's a serious proposal is that in fact I'd be happy to engage those gerrymandered enterprisers in debate -- and that I could learn from them, too.

Posted by: Don Herzog | May 17, 2005 11:31:35 AM


Posted by: Terrier

D.A. Ridgely: "I might break one way this morning and the other in the afternoon. What would that prove?" Well, it might prove that you were an actual human being and not a souless automaton hell-bent on increasing your wealth at the expense of the society that you owe so much to, but...I doubt it. :-)

S. Weasel, "There's nothing "inscrutable" about offering me two choices, neither of which reflects what I believe." Well, I submit that is exactly what is inscrutable. Hint: try thinking about it! :->

Just as there is this mysterious meter that can measure how much more inflammatory liberal rhetoric is than conservative, there also exists a test that can once and for all time correctly categorize you on the sliding scales of left and right. The problem is, of course, that you have to be dead for the test to work correctly. However, take heart, I suspect that the PVS afflicted also qualify.

Posted by: Terrier | May 17, 2005 11:33:59 AM


Posted by: Untenured Republican

I'm not *quite* sure what Don is getting at (this reactionary mind often finds that it is slower on the uptake). But I pick up on two insinuations. First, to quote Nietzsche, "no victor believes in chance." Fair enough. But one can respond to *any* opinion with "you *would* say that, wouldn't you?" and making too much of this flirts with genetic fallacy. For elsewhere (paraphrasing here) Nietzsche says that no failure believes in personal responsibility either. Surprisingly, while Nietzsche is bemused by the former phenomenon, he is contemptuous of the latter.

But let's talk about machismo (goody!). It has long been suggested that there is something going on genderwise in political differences on issues like the use of force and help for the needy, presumably because the Essence of Woman is sweet reason and compassion. Since better than half of the women in my family are "Enterprisers" like the 24% in the survey, I may have different intuitions about gender here, and am inclined to think that the presence or absence of twang may be more dispositive, but leave that to one side. First, under what circumstances negotiation rather than force, or charity rather than indifference, is effective is an empirical question. And it is an empirical question which must be sensitive to the reality of phenomena like moral hazard, how players respond to what sort of mix of rewards and punishments, past interactions and the like. The genetic (in the sense of genetic fallacy) claim that certain "Enterpriser" positions reflect some sort of underlying gender pathology (testosterone poisoning, or, more subtly, some sort of masculine protest which our more sexually secure Liberal brethren need not indulge) is parasitic on assumptions about what sorts of responses *are* adaptive. When someone tells me "force never accomplishes anything" I am reminded of the film _Mars Attacks_ in which such sentiments are repeatedly mocked and skewered (see the Jack Nicholson death scene for the inspiration for the use of this word) by displaying how ineffective they are in the face of a determined adversary seeking every advantage. And it is naive to think that the world never contains such adversaries. I am too much of a feminist to think that women are incapable of grasping this simple point, and take some comfort in the knowledge that my 24% sister Enterprisers apparently do. As for economic policy, similarly, it may be true that men and women tend to differ on the relative advantages of mothering and nest expulsion, but do we really want to say that this shows that it is the *men* who are out of touch with reality? That is, there is some weird psychoanalytic process by virtue of which men have this tendency to regard adults as like adults, whereas women have this reality-principle based propensity to regard adults as like children in need of nurture?

Inquiry into motives turns politics into group therapy, and by begging all the substantive questions, ultimately gets us nowhere.

Posted by: Untenured Republican | May 17, 2005 11:52:32 AM


Posted by: Paul Shields

I might break one way this morning and the other in the afternoon.

Me too. But that kind of chafing too should be coming out in the statistical wash.

But the statistical wash in this case consists precisely of people who are arbitrarily placed in one category along with those who are arbitrarily placed in another. So what does one learn about the categories themselves? Nothing.

Posted by: Paul Shields | May 17, 2005 12:02:30 PM


Posted by: john t

Noticed the word "authoritarian" in the post. What are the symptons underlying this dangerous trait. Man yells at wife,person hits dog on ass for pissing on rug, guy sits in front of TV on Sunday yelling at TV while watching NFL,refuses to read The Nation,gives mailman hard time because social security check comes late,vociferously demands more centralized power and controls in a slum town on the Potomac to be managed by ignorant egomaniacs so that all the perceived,exaggerated,misunderstood,evils caused by his neighbor will be stomped into smithereens,and maybe the neighbor too. Which is it?

Posted by: john t | May 17, 2005 12:04:46 PM


Posted by: Larry

Curiouser and curiouser: now Don Herzog -- who does apparently walk around saying "I'm a liberal" -- says "of course these groups are pure statistical gerrymanders", which he seems to think just means that no one self-labels themselves an "enterpriser", but which he doesn't seem to think gets in the way of his strong urge to label groups other than his chosen one as extremists (i.e., "holders of extreme views").

Note, too, the backing away from what comes close to a kind of gender- and race-baiting ("guys (and remember, they are overwhelmingly men), what's so great about oil drilling in the Arctic, anyway?"), to the blander but more respectable "exploring the role of race and gender". The latter, it's true, does not commit one to any kind of "essentialism" -- the open embrace of which would set up some severe cognitive dissonance within the mindset of the avowedly "liberal", after all -- but neither does it suggest that one might be open to questions about the nature of such categories and their role as rhetorical devices within the discourse of contemporary liberals.

Posted by: Larry | May 17, 2005 12:08:22 PM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Mr. Herzog writes: Mr. Ridgely suggests, “I might break one way this morning and the other in the afternoon.” Me too. But that kind of chafing too should be coming out in the statistical wash.

Sure, but none of us is a statistic. As Number Six used to shout, “I am not a number! I am a free man!” Or maybe, contra Terrier, I’m just Buridan's Ass?

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 12:25:29 PM


Posted by: LPFabulous

Ridgeley - You're picking at nits. By your logic, no statistics about anything could ever be particularly useful because the number of people they describe perfectly is so small. That would sort of undo all of public policy (which may be your goal here, but it's a goal I don't endorse so I'll assume you don't either for the time being).

Herzog's point strikes me as fundamentally a good one: sort people based on their answers to a few questions and bingo-bango, you get near-unanimity on a bunch of other things. That's statistically important even if you personally are the sort of guy who thinks different things when he's on different sides of a cup of coffee.

Posted by: LPFabulous | May 17, 2005 1:00:31 PM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

LPFabulous:

First, I didn't take exception to the statistical process, itself, either in general or regarding this particular study. I merely noted why I quit at Question 5.

Second, I have argued on other threads that I often use an informal technique of the same sort (though hardly in a scientific manner) in predicting the opinions of people on various issues and find I have had good success with it. You are accusing me of objecting to far more than I am, in fact, objecting to.

Third, my wit seems best adapted to nits. You figure out the rest.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 1:10:23 PM


Posted by: hinheckle

I did like the one about politicians. They do try hard, but they are totally out of touch. Which to chose?

So I did it again with the answer switched. The result was the same:
Hinheckle the enterpriser

Posted by: hinheckle | May 17, 2005 1:29:41 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Larry's thoughtful comment is really helpful. So here's what I think. Larry should agree that "extremist" has sharply different linguistic force from "holders of extreme views." The former has a charge of "holding unreasonable views." The latter, in the context of reporting statistical results, just means, "at the tail end of some curve" or the like.

Meanwhile, I distanced myself from "authoritarian personality" talk. So the question is, by thinking aloud about gender am I just recreating it under a new label? I don't think so. Here's why. The nub of the "authoritarian personality" theory -- and what makes it repulsive -- is the thought 1/that there is a prior psychopathological profile 2/that explains how and why people come to repellent (fascist) political views. (Don't like the Pew survey? Adorno et al. asked people questions like, "do you like pulling the legs off spiders?")

I want us to be able to think about how gender plays in politics without either of those commitments. That is I want to leave room for gender being partly constituted by political positions, and not just a prior thing that explains them. And I want emphatically to leave out any reductionist impulse that you can criticize a view by showing the ways in which it's gendered. As Untenured remarks, it might well be a virtue of a political view that it has a particular gender component. And you'd have to be a much klutzier feminist than even I am to think that as a general matter masculine=bad and feminine=good.

Nor do I reserve my interest in how political views are gendered for thinking about non- or anti-liberal views. How liberal views are gendered, and for that matter how their gender dynamics are perceived, are both great topics.

Posted by: Don Herzog | May 17, 2005 1:41:31 PM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Okay, I'll get serious for a moment. What, Mr. Herzog, do you mean by "gender being partly constituted by political positions"? (Emphasis added.)

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 1:57:43 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Let's draw a conventional sex/gender distinction.

Sex = biological facts about males and females of the species, what's true about reproductive capacities, hormones, brain development, &c &c.

Gender = norms about what's properly masculine and properly feminine, and then the associated stances. To take a baldly stereotypical one: tough guys don't cry.

(The distinction opens two pressing questions. One: does sex explain gender? Two: does sex justify gender?)

So gender could be partly constituted by a political position in this way: you qualify as masculine, or feminine, in part because you take a certain kind of policy position. The thought here is not that there is a prior fact about gender that explains how you come to the view.

Posted by: Don Herzog | May 17, 2005 2:12:03 PM


Posted by: Larry

Don's last comment is helpful. I agree with his linguistic distinction, as long as it's made clear (i.e., that we're talking about statistical unlikelihood, and not (necessarily) unreasonableness, or, worse, dangerousness). I also agree with what I take (perhaps mistakenly) to be an implied comparison between liberals' tendency to ridicule opponents with terms like "testosterone laden" and conservatives' tendency to do likewise with "girly-men". Both are more than little silly. Finally (for now), I understand and appreciate the desire to distance oneself from tendentious terms like "authoritarian personality" that can be, and have been, used merely as pseudo-intellectual attacks on one's political opponents (used typically by the left against the right) -- but if we can avoid such rhetorcal point-scoring, even if temporarily, then there might actually be something of interest in looking at personality and politics. Obviously, though, it's a minefield....

Posted by: Larry | May 17, 2005 2:16:57 PM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

Fair enough. But then, is "properly" being used descriptively or prescriptively here? That is, is a woman who favors drilling in the ANWR (Freudian overtones about drilling aside) demonstrating merely a possibly atypically 'male gendered' point of view or a gender 'inappropriate' POV? Alternatively, are we looking at how the political discourse falls in gender terms within each sex as men or women vary among other members of their own sex along the (French, and therefore suspect) political continuum?

Sorry if the questions are confused – the questioner clearly is.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 3:08:24 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

There is an internal link between sex and gender: men are supposed to be masculine and women are supposed to be feminine. But that doesn't always happen. Both normative and descriptive points are captured already in the playground categories "wimp" and "tomboy." And needless to say all this is further complicated by the huge controversies over what is masculine, what feminine, in the first place.

Posted by: Don Herzog | May 17, 2005 3:11:19 PM


Posted by: Tad Brennan

If I were asked to edit the original post, I would suggest one small clarification:

""authoritarian personality" types, a category repulsive for its blend of political criticism and medical pathology."

Problem--by calling the "category" repulsive etc., it seems at first read as though you are saying that the *members* of the category, i.e. some people, are repulsive, and suffer from a medical pathology. And you have just said that these people are roughly the same as the enterprisers, so it looks at first read as though you are saying that the enterprisers are repulsive etc.


I think what you mean is "a category-label that is repulsive because it blends etc."
or
"a categorization that is repulsive because it blends etc."

I.e., you are objecting to the label "authoritarian personality type", in the first place, not to anyone who might fit that label, and you are objecting to it more for its methodological and analytical muddleheadedness than for the views of anyone who might belong in it.

Is that a fair reading of what you meant there? Could my first-glance misreading have been shared by any others who thought you were name-calling?

Posted by: Tad Brennan | May 17, 2005 3:49:25 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Yes, for sure, I'm objecting to the category, not the people in it. I could plead that the "its" in "category repulsive for its blend" makes that clear, but obviously it doesn't. Thanks, Tad.

Posted by: Don Herzog | May 17, 2005 3:52:56 PM


Posted by: Tad Brennan

I hear the word "category" and I think extension (i.e. what gets categorized); you think intension (i.e. the rules for categorizing).

Posted by: Tad Brennan | May 17, 2005 4:21:04 PM


Posted by: Achillea

Interesting. I'm female, lower-middle-class financially. I don't have a college degree, I've never been in the military, and never been married. I'm strongly pro-choice and pro-gay-marriage (basically, I disagree with social conservatives straight down the line) and have no opinion on the Patriot Act one way or the other. And yet, somehow, I manage to sift out into this survey's Enterpriser basket.

Suffice it to say, I have my doubts. Nice to see I'm in the excellent company of D.A. Ridgely, Carl, Too Many Steves, and a whole host of others in that.

Tad: Could my first-glance misreading have been shared by any others who thought you were name-calling?

That's how I read it, too.

Posted by: Achillea | May 17, 2005 5:15:50 PM


Posted by: D.A. Ridgely

I didn't see Mr. Herzog as intending to engage in name calling, but I also didn't see the distinction Mr. Brennan ably offered. I think that's very helpful in trying to get at Mr. Herzog's concern.

Posted by: D.A. Ridgely | May 17, 2005 5:26:03 PM


Posted by: Mona

Sumfin' be way wrong with that survey. I ended up as an enterpriser, which is defined as socially conservative. Yet, I "strongly agreed" that society should accept homosexuality. And, I was all about embracing immigrants (assuming that I was not answering a question about scrutiny of devout Muslims seeking entry to the U.S., about whom, for obvious reasons, I have some qualms). I also said public school libraries should be able to carry anything, on the assumption the question was "anything in the realm of *ideas." Yet, I'm a social conservative?

Bleh, on the whole thing.

And there were no options to identify as a libertarian -- just independent-leaning Republican or conservative as the only possible descriptors for me in the two inquiries asking us to rate ourselves. My real answer was "none of the above."

Oh,and I'm supposedly mildly religious. Notwithstanding that for 15 yrs I've not seen the inside of a church save for weddings and funerals, and that my religious friends despair of bringing me to Jesus in light of my intransigent non-theism.

Nope, that thing is worthless.

Posted by: Mona | May 17, 2005 5:50:45 PM


Posted by: miab

The strong negative responses to this study and its results are interesting, because the results pretty much fit with conventional wisdom about party alignment, and don't attack or judge any of the groups. S. Weasel's response for example: "'Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy' I always love this one! It shows up every time. Those evil Republicans that care more about profits than dear old Gaia!". Where S. Weasel could read an attack on anti-regulation views on the environment in there, I just don't see. "Cost too many jobs and hurt the economy" is exactly the argument the anti-regulatory types use, and has no connotations of evil.

So my question is, why the resistance and accusations of Pew bias? Where is there criticism implicit in these findings?


Tad writes: "Could my first-glance misreading have been shared by any others who thought you were name-calling?"

Yes, I thought DH was equating Enterprisers and Authoritarian Personalities, and then calling the members of the Authoritarian Personality category -- and therefore Enterprisers -- repulsive.

Posted by: miab | May 17, 2005 5:51:46 PM


Posted by: Mona

Yes, I thought DH was equating Enterprisers and Authoritarian Personalities, and then calling the members of the Authoritarian Personality category -- and therefore Enterprisers -- repulsive.

Having gone back and re-read Don's post, I can see from whence the confusion arises. But I did not read him that way, because I've come to know a good deal about Don's temperament and how averse he generally is to invidious epithets. So, I guess there is something to reader-response theory.

As to the survey itself, I did not think it particularly loaded ideologically, I merely find that it is poorly designed and not broad enough in its possible political categories and "types." It's description of enterprisers is simply wrong as to me in a number of impt respects.

Posted by: Mona | May 17, 2005 5:58:06 PM


Posted by: Bret

Well, today I'm "Upbeat", yesterday I was "Disaffected", yet I attempted to answer the questions the same. I must've missed one or two.

Too many of these questions aren't opposites are are, as a result, unanswerable. For example, consider the following:

3. This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.
This country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment.

To really protect the environment, we should all commit suicide, yet I don't think we've yet to go too far in our efforts to protect the environment.

4. Government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest.
Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good.

Both true (in my opinion). Business can't be given a completely free hand lest catastrophic pollution or other dangers occur, yet, in my opinion, a majority of regulations have done more harm than good.

7. Elected officials in Washington lose touch with the people pretty quickly.
Elected officials in Washington try hard to stay in touch with voters back home.

Both true. I think they try very hard but don't succeed and end up losing touch very quickly.

8. Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.
Government often does a better job than people give it credit for.

Both possibly true (though I picked the 2nd). Government could be wasteful and inefficient yet people could think it's even worse than it is.

9. Using overwhelming military force is the best way to defeat terrorism around the world.
Relying too much on military force to defeat terrorism creates hatred that leads to more terrorism.

Both possibly true. There can be too much of a good thing.

12. Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy.
Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost.

That would depend on which stricter environmental laws. I don't know how anyone could answer this. Again, if the law is to hold your breath so you don't exhale any CO2 and cause global warming, I think we'd agree that that would be overly strict.

13. It’s best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs.
We should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home.

Both true. Certainly we need to be active at some level, but perhaps we are too active at the moment relative to domestic problems.

15. Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside of our control.
Everyone has it in their own power to succeed.

Both necessary but not sufficient conditions. You need some luck and have to apply yourself to succeed. Everyone certainly has it in their own power to fail and outside forces can cause failure no matter what you do.

16. The best way to ensure peace is through military strength.
Good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace.

There is no "best". Both are required. The "best" is the correct mix.

21. The government should do more to help needy Americans, even if it means going deeper into debt.
The government today can't afford to do much more to help the needy.

Neither. The government could afford it, but should leave such work to charities.

23. Poor people today have it easy because they can get government benefits without doing anything in return.
Poor people have hard lives because government benefits don't go far enough to help them live decently.

Neither. Poor people have hard lives but it has nothing to do with government benefits.

That's 11 of 25 questions that can be answered both or neither, including 3 of the 4 Don Herzog identified as being characteristic of "Enterprisers". I left blank them blank (I know the directions said to pick on or the other, but I couldn't). I think the survey questions are bad enough to render the survey useless.

Posted by: Bret | May 17, 2005 6:08:19 PM


Posted by: Tad Brennan

Look, folks, the fact is that Pew study could do a perfectly good job of categorizing 99.9% of the country, and still go haywire on the population that reads blogs.

And not just any blogs--if you are reading this particular blog, you went out looking for opinions that would defy traditional boundaries and would be of interest to renegades from both the right and the left. Furthermore, out of the few thousand people who *read* this oddball blog every day, *you* clowns actually *write* stuff on it.

So is it any surprise that you didn't fit neatly into one of their grid-squares?

In its future incarnations, it will have categories for "avid blog readers", "avid blog poster", "atheist libertarian with strong security concerns", and "acutely aware of badly written questions".

All must have prizes!

Posted by: Tad Brennan | May 17, 2005 6:21:55 PM


Posted by: S. Weasel

"Cost too many jobs and hurt the economy" is exactly the argument the anti-regulatory types use, and has no connotations of evil.

Nonsense. Charicature anti-regulatory types, maybe. No-one I know uses an economic argument first, divorced from the actual state of the environment or the usefulness of regulation in preserving it. I think it would be extraordinarily evil to argue against regulation purely on the basis of the economy if the state of the environment were poor or worsening.

Posted by: S. Weasel | May 17, 2005 6:29:42 PM


Posted by: Bret

Tad Brennan wrote: "...the fact is that Pew study could do a perfectly good job of categorizing 99.9% of the country, and still go haywire on the population that reads blogs."

Maybe, but I disagree. You really think that those questions, if worded more consistently, wouldn't have significantly changed the results? I think better questions would have given much different results.

Posted by: Bret | May 17, 2005 6:37:14 PM


Posted by: Untenured Republican

Maybe I'm just too dense for statistical work, but how do we determine what the relationship between gender norms and political ideologies is when the survey doesn't tell us for each question what percentage of those giving a specific answer were men and what percentage were women? For example, the majority of "social conservatives" and "pro-government conservatives" and "conservative Democrats" were women, right? Is that because women are more prone to favor a muscular military than men are?

Posted by: Untenured Republican | May 17, 2005 6:37:35 PM


Posted by: Tad Brennan

S. Weasel--

So you mean if the spotted owl really *were* in danger of extinction, you would think that its protection trumps considerations of the loggers' jobs, or of the price of softwood from Canada, etc.?

And trumps them in such a way that arguing against the owl's protection based on concerns about employment, in a situation in which the owl (or some salamander) was *really* endangered, would be evil?

Or do environmental problems render economic arguments "evil" only when the environment as a whole is going down the tubes? I.e., do you figure that the loss of an owl or salamander here and there does not really count as a state in which the environment is poor or worsening?

My--we *do* have a lot of category-crossers on this blog!

Posted by: Tad Brennan | May 17, 2005 6:39:23 PM


Posted by: craig

How acutely embarrassing that we manage to get by with a linear or one-dimensional political mapping that comes from seating arrangements in the French national assembly of 1789.

Again with this old saw. Over the decades I've seen many attempts to demonstrate how unsatisfactory the left/right spectrum is for describing peoples' actual opinions. Often, it appears as a proposed 2-dimensional (cause of paper, you know) pair of axes, with a Cambrian Explosion of proposed axes.

The problem is, in contempory America, the winner of the election will be a Democrat or a Republican, with insignificant exceptions. So, one line between these two poles seems to be a reasonable way to describe the political landscape. Sure, actual people stand off the line in a variety of directions; who cares? Come election day, they vote "D", they vote "R", or they don't count. Sorry, "G" and "L", but that's the way it is. Do like the fundies did and infiltrate and subvert the existing party of your choice.

Posted by: craig | May 17, 2005 6:45:10 PM


Posted by: Don Herzog

Untenured, if the point is about gender, not sex, then sure, it's perfectly possible that a majority of women hold a masculine view. Whyever not?

Meanwhile I have edited the main post to insert one of those clunky clarifications, in response to Tad and others. Thanks, all.

Posted by: Don Herzog | May 17, 2005 6:48:16 PM


The comments to this entry are closed.

« previous post | Main | next post »