Who Are the Most Analytical Voters?

From Tyler Cowen at Bloomberg:

Related imageYou might think that politics is an area where being analytical is especially useful. If you do, well, I have news for you: Libertarians measure as being the most analytical political group. That’s according to something called the cognitive reflection test, which is designed to measure whether an individual will override his or her immediate emotional responses and give a question further consideration. So if you aren’t a libertarian, maybe you ought to give that philosophy another look. It’s a relatively exclusive club, replete with people who are politically engaged, able to handle abstract arguments and capable of deeper reflection.

What else can we learn from this new study of political and analytical tendencies, conducted by Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand of Yale University?

For the 2016 election, one group that measured as especially nonanalytical was Democrats who crossed party lines and voted for Donald Trump. There is a stereotype of a less well-educated voter, perhaps both white and male, who reacts negatively and emotionally to Hillary Clinton, who decided to vote for Trump even if Trump’s actual policies will not prove in his best interest. For all the dangers of stereotyping, the study’s data are consistent with that picture.

Both nonvoters and independents do poorly on the analytic dimension. There is a myth of a reasonable, rational politically independent America, sitting in the middle of the spectrum, weighing arguments carefully and seeing which candidate or party has the better ideas and platform. In reality, that group measures as relatively impulsive and prone to less informed judgments.

If you are a Democrat, you might take some cheer in the fact that Democrats/liberals measure as somewhat more analytical than Republicans/conservatives. But if you take being analytic as a positive mark, you might feel at least a slight tug toward the libertarians. At the very least, you might find it harder to attack or make fun of the Republicans for being intellectually backward, because you as a Democratic liberal no longer sit atop of the totem pole of reason. Note that individuals who are conservative along economic dimensions measure as more analytical than those who are not, again on average. That is a slightly uncomfortable result for those on the left. The opposite is true for social conservatives, by the way: They are less analytical on average.

Cowen is quick to point out that there are analytical people in all camps. He also notes that being analytical can put “you out of touch with the American citizenry…Extremely analytical leaders might be best for managing an organization of predominantly analytical people, but that doesn’t mean they will be good national politicians.”

Check out the full study.