Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why Do Republicans Know More?

From Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web 10/29/09

Why Do Republicans Know More?
The Weekly Standard's Mary Katherine Ham, a distant cousin of Francis Bacon, has an intriguing blog post on a recent survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Pew asked a series of questions about current events, and found that Republicans were considerably more likely than Democrats to know the correct answers. Democrats outscored Republicans on only one question, whether health spending is higher in the U.S. or Europe, and the two parties tied when asked what policy area the term "public option" refers to. On 10 other questions, ranging from who Glenn Beck is to the name of the newest Supreme Court justice, Republicans were more likely to answer correctly.

Ham faults the media for not paying much attention to this finding, and we reckon they haven't. The survey is two weeks old, and this is the first we've heard about it. But it got us to thinking about the reasons for the discrepancy.

It reminded us of an item we did in 2003, after Arnold Schwarzenegger's election as California governor. Looking at exit-poll data, we noted that Republicans seemed to do better among more educated voters: high school dropouts are more Democratic than high-school graduates, who in turn are more Democratic than college graduates. The exception is that those who have done postgraduate study have voting patterns similar to dropouts. We suspect this is because this group includes unionized teachers.

Another possibility is that the higher knowledge level among Republicans is an artifact of public disillusionment with the GOP. For the past several years, fewer Americans have described themselves in polls as Republicans, a trend that has not yet reversed despite the unpopularity of President Obama's policies. If Republicans are in bad odor, then less-engaged citizens would be less likely to declare themselves Republicans.

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