Can facts be mean-spirited? Sometimes I wonder.
No matter what I might feel inside, statistical data can provide a picture that’s hard to soften.
For example, some data suggests that conservatives are less likely to have a college education, while they are more likely to slap the “idiot” label on their political opposites, the liberals.
Of course, those phrases – “more likely” and “less likely” – cannot be the last word on any individual conservative.
No one who looks through a list of scholars at the conservative Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute would say all conservatives are uneducated. Many of those folks have doctoral degrees, some from Ivy League universities.
And yet, and yet, and yet – The Atlantic Monthly’s website recently published an article entitled, “Why America Keeps Getting More Conservative.”
The why wasn’t as interesting as the what.
Based on the Atlantic’s article and U.S. Census statistics, let’s compare political identities and educational achievement in South Carolina and Massachusetts.
In the Red Palmetto State, about 24 percent have a four-year college degree or a graduate degree. Meanwhile, about 45 percent of South Carolinians identify as conservatives.
(In my home state of North Carolina, about 26.5 percent have bachelor’s degrees or more, while about 43 percent call themselves conservatives.)
In the Blue Kennedy And Early-Romney State, about 38 percent have a bachelor’s degree or better, but only 29 percent identify as conservatives.
Slightly less official, but funnier, are Google search engine results.
I searched the label “idiots” as applied to both liberals and conservatives, and Google generously returned the following results (while using the word “about” to give me nice round numbers):
“Liberals are idiots” – 32,300 results.
“Liberal idiots” – 93,600 results.
“Conservatives are idiots” – 23,500 results.
“Conservative idiots” – 47,900 results.
So in the Google-centered universe (the one true universe), liberals were hit with the “idiots” label about 125,900 times – while conservatives were “idiots” about 71,400 times.
By placing the U.S. Census, Atlantic Monthly, and Google data into a coffee-and-chocolate powered organic computer, I can come to this analytical conclusion:
Conservatives are more likely to be idiots while also being more likely to call their political opponents “idiots.”
Takes one to know one?
Of course, that all isn’t fair, and it’s not even true to my way to looking at the world as a conservative-turned-libertarian. (We libertarians think both conservatives and liberals have embraced various idiocies.)
In the first place, I’ve met some college grads without a lick of sense, and I’ve met some blue-collar workers who were sharper than me on my best day.
And I would much rather have a fellow citizen read The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater – or anything by P.J. O’Rourke – than the New York Times editorial page, which is more boring and predictable than some overpaid, liberal Hollywood star bitching about the same conservative America that buys all the movie tickets. (Hard to say who’s the idiot in that scenario – mutual idiocy feeding off one another?)
A good researcher might even be able to make a case that the educated classes of America are brainwashed into a special form of conventional groupthink.
Maybe so. But for now, the data is hard to soften. More liberals have college degrees. More conservatives don’t. And boy, those conservatives like to throw the “idiot” label.
-Colin Foote Burch