December 17, 2002
More Solid Research from the American Enterprise Institute

Back in the late 1970s, the American Enterprise Institute ranked close to the Brookings Institution as a thinktank you could trust not to deliberately lie to you. Now it has fallen very deeply into the pit indeed, as witness the American Prospect story below.

People working at AEI should recognize the consequences: I simply won't read their stuff. There is too much to read written by people at institutions that have built up a reputation for trying hard to tell it straight. I just don't have time to waste reading things by people I don't know from institutions that have burned their reputations...


TAP: Vol 13, Iss. 23. Flunking Statistics. Martin Plissner. ...The right-of-center American Enterprise Institute (AEI), in the August cover story of its American Enterprise magazine, claimed documentation beyond dispute of the left-wing hammerlock on American faculties. AE's editor-in-chief, William Zinsmeister, in league with David Horowitz (best known for his ads in college newspapers calling on black Americans to show "gratitude" for all that white Americans have done for them) of the conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, sent student volunteers to boards of election to search out the party registrations of 1,843 college teachers at 21 institutions. For the cover story, Democrats, Greens and "Working Family" registrants were lumped under "L" for "parties of the left"; Republicans and Libertarians, meanwhile, were filed under "R" for "parties of the right." (Independents, who would seem under Zinsmeister's labeling scheme to merit a "C" for "centrist," were ignored.) The overall ratio of L's to R's reflected in the story's bar graphs was dramatic: 11-to-1.... Now, you don't have to be conservative and paranoid to expect that a show of hands between liberals and conservatives among the nation's academics doesn't figure to be close. In politics, college towns are not generally found to be bastions of the right. But Zinsmeister's purported findings were something else again.... [B]ut in the University of Texas sample... 28 of the 94 teachers came from women's studies... none of the 94 was from the university's huge schools of engineering, business, law or medicine -- or from any of the sciences.... Harvard's faculty of more than 2,000 is represented by 52 members from just three academic disciplines, all in the social sciences. More than half of the University of California, Los Angeles sample comes from just two disciplines: history and, once again, women's studies...

Posted by DeLong at December 17, 2002 12:36 PM | Trackback

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Nevers occurs to me to pay any attention to the American Enterprise Institute. Mere propaganda.

Posted by: on December 17, 2002 01:52 PM

Brad DeLong says he won't read anything that the right wing American Enterprise Institute writes.

But he apparently doesn't have any problem with reading lies written by the left wing American Prospect, such as:

"AE's editor-in-chief, William Zinsmeister, in league with David Horowitz (best known for his ads in college newspapers calling on black Americans to show 'gratitude' for all that white Americans have done for them)..."

What a pathetic and shameless lie! American Prospect, welcome to the "Ann Coulter Club of Telling It Like It...Isn't!"

I have $20 to the first person who can find where David Horowitz ever wrote that black Americans should show gratitude to *living* white Americans for what they've done for them.

1) David Horowitz *has* written that African Americans should be grateful that they are in America, and not in Africa.

2) And he *has* written that they should be grateful to the people in the North in the Civil War, who died so that slavery could be abolished in the United States.

http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID=1153

Both of those things have been written by Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder, or Walter Williams...all of whom are black.

From Thomas Sowell:

"Nothing we can do in the 21st century can redress the wrongs done by people long dead against other people long dead. So we might as well put away these sweeping definitions of 'whites' and 'blacks' that extend back through history and talk about those particular whites, blacks and others who are alive today. As one of those black Americans, I consider it as ridiculous as it would be phony to pretend that I am worse off than if my ancestors had remained in West Africa and I had been born there. They themselves might well have been better off remaining in Africa, but they are not the ones who would get any reparations."

http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/oped/owens/01/brown.html

Or Larry Elder on reparations:

"-- The black American gross domestic product would make it one of the world's 15 wealthiest countries."

http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=1855

Or Walter Williams:

"Though it's not politically correct to say, today's blacks benefited immensely from the horrors suffered by our ancestors."

http://www.capmag.com/articlePrint.asp?ID=89

So, Dr. DeLong, will you continue to read lies of the left wing, but not the right wing?

I have a better suggestion: healthy skepticism of everything you read.

Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 17, 2002 03:13 PM

From the Prospect:
"best known for his ads in college newspapers calling on black Americans to show 'gratitude' for all that white Americans have done for them"

From Mark Bahner's link to Frontpage:

"there never was an anti-slavery movement until white Christians - Englishmen and Americans -- created one. If not for the anti-slavery attitudes and military power of white Englishmen and Americans, the slave trade would not have been brought to an end. If not for the sacrifices of white soldiers and a white American president who gave his life to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, blacks in America would still be slaves."

snip (still same paragraph)

"Where is the gratitude of black America and its leaders for those gifts?"

Follow the link to get the actual point- I did edit out a parts that point to the situation of American Blacks as being better than in other places, but to say that The Prospect lied is stretching it. Especially for a parenthetical remark on a blog (as opposed to a study). At the very least David Horoxitz was being intentionally inflammatory.

Posted by: theCoach on December 17, 2002 04:33 PM

There are truly excellent large-N, methodologically sound, simple random surveys of American voting behavior freely-available from the National Election Studies research group at the University of Michigan. These surveys form a cornerstone of the 'Americanist' school in political science.

I remember digging into their 2000 election survey a while ago after the "liberal bias" debate popped up among friends. Hoping to disprove it, I just looked at some simple stats on the relationship between degree of education and political affiliation. The results were striking.

If I remember them correctly, support for the Democratic Party was much, much higher than support for the Republican Party among those with advanced degrees. Holders of professional degrees (law, business) were more conservative than their MA and PhD counterparts, but even they leant strongly on balance towards the Democrats (60-40??). The bastion of support for Republicans seemed to come from BA recipients, although the really uneducated were also fairly evenly split, if slightly Democratic.

So my knee-jerk conclusion would be that university campuses probably ARE more liberal than the nation as a whole -- but only because one would have to stack the deck tremendously to achieve anything near a 50-50 split in any profession where professional advancement requires more than an undergraduate education.

And surely the AEI is not calling for affirmative action?

Posted by: david on December 17, 2002 05:18 PM

TAP takes issue with the survey's methodology for making a claim about general faculty when in many cases only select schools were surveyed. I can't argue with this, but who cares what the Physics, or Mathematics professor's politics are? It can not by definition alter the substance of the material presented. My undergrad statistics prof was an unreconstructed Trotskyist. Her word problems were a hoot to read, but her politics couldn't alter the consequences of Tchebychev's theorems or those of Gauss.

On the other hand the students in a Women's Studies program are likely to aspire to one day affect govenment policy, and likewise the material presented can be heavily biased by the professor's own values. It seems to me this is exactly the sub-population where the AEI'survey data would be most useful to funders of their childrens' education. Imagine a liberal parent's alarm should they learn Phyllis Schlafly was chair of their daughter's Womyn's Studies department.

Posted by: A different David on December 17, 2002 07:51 PM

Surely the fact that teachers in public education tend to vote Democrat is about as surprising as the news that workers for defence contractors vote Republican? The fact that one votes for the party which overwhelmingly benefits one's own economic interests is, I think, likely to be a very poor indicator of one's genuine political beliefs. I would want to see more evidence that these Democrat-voting lecturers had any material left-wing political beliefs other than favouring the payment of more public money to themselves.

Posted by: dsquared on December 17, 2002 11:12 PM

A Different David,

"Who cares what the Physics or Mathematics professor's politics are?"

Anyone who actually wants to find out the political views of college faculty.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on December 18, 2002 09:26 AM

Bernard Yomtov answers:

> Anyone who actually wants to find out the
> political views of college faculty.

My whole point is simply, data on the political views of a whole college faculty are not as useful as data on the part of the faculty whose field meaningfully affects, or is affected by politics.

In the same way as surveys of the political views of "United States citizens" never include the views of children under 18, felons, or in many cases, people simply unlikely to vote.

Posted by: The same David this time on December 18, 2002 01:00 PM

TheCoach writes, "...but to say that The Prospect lied is stretching it."

On further review...I'll retract my characterization of it as a "lie," though I still think it was misleading. The (American) Prospect wrote that David Horowitz was:

"...best known for his ads in college newspapers calling on black Americans to show 'gratitude' for all that white Americans have done for them."

To me, that strongly *implies* that David Horowitz was speaking of *living* white Americans. Whereas, Horowitz was in fact speaking of abolitionists, including those in the North who died to end slavery in the U.S.

It's also pretty clear that the reference was intended merely to be pejorative. Why couldn't The American Prospect have written that David Horowitz is:

"...best known for his ads in college newspapers against slavery reparations," or even,

"...best known for his inflamatory ads in college newspapers against slavery reparations," or

"...best known for his ads in college newspapers claiming that slavery reparations are racist,"...or something like that?

I think the answer is clearly that such alternative characterizations wouldn't have had the desired effect of making David Horowitz seem like an inconsiderate jerk.

TheCoach continues, "Especially for a parenthetical remark on a blog (as opposed to a study)."

The American Prospect isn't a "blog." It's an online magazine, which presumably has an editor (checking to make sure that people "like" David Horowitz are portrayed in a "properly" unfavorable light?).

I have a hard time commenting on the "study," as it's not available on-line. I'm not sure I feel like shelling out the $6 to get the SEPTEMBER issue of the AEI magazine. (Note to The American Prospect: It's the *September* issue, not August.) I completely agree that, if the study is as portrayed--that the article implied that the chosen sample was representative of the complete faculty at any of those universities--it would be a lie.

But how do I, or anyone else, know that the study was as portrayed by The American Prospect?

Posted by: Mark Bahner on December 18, 2002 04:11 PM

A different David wrote, "TAP takes issue with the survey's methodology for making a claim about general faculty when in many cases only select schools were surveyed. I can't argue with this, but who cares what the Physics, or Mathematics professor's politics are? It can not by definition alter the substance of the material presented. My undergrad statistics prof was an unreconstructed Trotskyist. Her word problems were a hoot to read, but her politics couldn't alter the consequences of Tchebychev's theorems or those of Gauss."

That's fine as far as math and physics goes. You leave out a whole host of disciplines, however. When I taught at University of Wyoming (math, no less!), I noticed that some ag-like department had a weekly seminar which sounded like rightist "Sagebrush rebellion" agitprop.

Not to mention all the biased stuff college kids get from...economics departments, business schools, and so forth.

Best,

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on December 18, 2002 05:55 PM

>>I think the answer is clearly that such alternative characterizations wouldn't have had the desired effect of making David Horowitz seem like an inconsiderate jerk<<

But to have given the impression that Horowitz wasn't an inconsiderate jerk would be downright misleading ...

Posted by: dsquared on December 19, 2002 06:43 AM

A different David writes,

"My whole point is simply, data on the political views of a whole college faculty are not as useful as data on the part of the faculty whose field meaningfully affects, or is affected by politics. "

Useful for what? Throwing some red meat to the dittoheads?

The point is that if you're going to survey Women's Studies professors on politics, or anything else, you should present the results as a survey of Women's Studies professors, not of college faculties in general. The AEI didn't do that. They, and the people who quote the study, like the celebrated intellectual George Will for example, don't bother with such niceties. Don't pay too much attention to the details - it might rob you of a weapon.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov on December 19, 2002 08:55 AM

d squared writes:

>> Surely the fact that teachers in public education tend to vote Democrat is about as surprising as the news that workers for defence contractors vote Republican? <<

I don't know that either of the above is true. Boeing is in Washington state, which has two female Democrats for Senator. The congressmen who represent the areas in which Boeing has plants are; Norm Dicks (D), Jay Inslee (D), Adam Smith (D), and Jim McDermott (D-Baghdad).

As for teachers, I know a number who vote Republican. But their union leaders certainly are strong Dems.

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan on December 19, 2002 09:14 AM

It's a tendency, but not a dominant factor. The political climes of Washington & California were significantly different in the 1980s, in spite of large defense industries in both.

Posted by: Jason McCullough on December 19, 2002 03:06 PM
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