Few traits better characterize contemporary liberals than their false sense of intellectual superiority.
We’re all familiar with the clichés. Conservatives and libertarians who deviate from liberal articles of faith, from global warming alarmism to Keynesian economics to bureaucratized social engineering, are “deniers,” unmoored from rationality and “settled science.” Leftist author Thomas Frank captured that mindset with the title of his book “What’s the Matter with Kansas?,” asserting that Republican voters aren’t even capable of aligning their votes with their supposedly self-evident best interests.
There’s only one problem.
The actual, objective sociological evidence continues to demonstrate that the opposite is true. Republicans routinely prove themselves more knowledgeable than Democrats.
The left-leaning Pew Research Center provides the latest example.
Each year, Pew conducts its “What Do Americans Know” survey, which tests respondents on a series of questions. This year, the topics included the federal minimum wage, the territory occupied by ISIS, the Ukraine, Common Core educational proposals, fracking, where the Ebola virus is centered, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the U.S. poverty rate, where Shiite Muslims outnumber Sunnis, who chairs the Federal Reserve, where the federal government spends most and the U.S. unemployment rate. Unsurprisingly, older adults demonstrated greater knowledge than their younger counterparts, as did better-educated respondents.
But buried at the bottom of the survey report lies the subject heading “Partisan Differences in Knowledge,” which itemizes each question and the percentage of Republicans, Democrats and Independents who answered each one correctly.
So how stark were the partisan knowledge differentials?
Out of 12 questions asked, Republicans outperformed both Democrats and Independents on 10. The differences were most pronounced on the questions regarding Common Core, fracking and where Shiites outnumber Sunnis, where the percentage of Republicans answering correctly outpaced Democrats by double digits. But Republicans also outperformed Democrats on questions centering on the federal minimum wage and the Fed Chairwoman, even though she’s a Democrat appointed by Obama, while the minimum wage is Democrats’ favorite wedge issue this election year to try to keep Harry Reid (D – Nevada) as the Senate Majority Leader.
Democrats only outscored Republicans in naming the primary Ebola outbreak location and the federal poverty rate, but only by 2 and 5 percentage points, respectively.
That obviously amounts to a lopsided Republican advantage in knowledge. But take a look at how Pew attempted to soften the findings:
“Differences in news knowledge across partisan groups are relatively modest, though Republicans tend to do somewhat better than Democrats overall. Republicans are 16 points more likely than Democrats to answer the Common Core question correctly (58% vs. 42%). And 57% of Republicans identify the oil industry as a primary driver of growth in North Dakota, compared with 42% of Democrats. On other issues, such as the unemployment rate, there are hardly any differences in news knowledge between Republicans and Democrats. Just 38% of Republicans and 34% of Democrats know that the unemployment rate is currently closest to 6%. Many Americans overestimate the current unemployment rate: 27% say it is closest to 9%, while an additional 18% think the rate is closest to 12%.”
Think about that for a moment. Imagine two football teams playing 12 head-to-head games, with one winning 10 and the other 2. It would be preposterous for a sportswriter to describe that differential as “relatively modest,” or that the team winning 10 of 12 games performed “somewhat better” than the team that lost 10 of 12.
This year’s results parallel surveys from previous years, so it’s not as though it should have come as an unwelcome surprise to the left-leaning Pew.
In 2012, Republicans outscored Democrats on 11 of 12 items. Yet in that instance Pew also described Republicans’ performance as “somewhat better” than Democratic voters. In the 2011 Pew survey, Republicans outperformed Democrats on every single one of 19 questions, and in 2010 Republicans tested better than Democrats on 10 of 12 questions, with 1 tie score and Democrats testing better on just 1.
Moreover, those who find these consistent results disagreeable cannot simply dismiss them as unique to Pew.
In 2010, as just one example, The New York Times conducted a survey on Tea Party supporters, and the results surely jolted editors and readers alike. Under the headline “Poll Finds Tea Party Backers Wealthier and More Educated,” The Times conceded that Tea Partiers were more likely to possess a college degree than their opposition by a 23% to 15 % margin, as well as to have obtained a graduate degree by a 14% to 10% differential. Tea Partiers were also more likely to have “some college” while less likely to have not completed high school (3% versus 12%).
These objective, real-world results won’t surprise many conservatives and libertarians. By now, we’re well accustomed to such things as reciting the lack of global temperature increase going back almost two decades now, even while liberals unfamiliar with such facts claim fealty to “science.”
Denial among media and entertainment leaders remains curiously stubborn, but reality must set in at some point for them as well.