Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wimpy liberals and strong conservatives stereotype turned on its head

Drudge Report linked to a funny story today. A study has found that whiny insecure kids who run to the teacher with complaints grow up to become conservatives while confident, resilient, self-reliant kids grow up to become liberals. This turns the wimpy liberal/strong conservative stereotype on its head.

The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young
adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging
loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls
were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet! Of course, as with everything that sounds sweet to the ears there will always be caveats, which will ask you to take the news only after adding salt that will spoil the sweet taste. For instance the study is limited to the Bay area, the sample size isn’t representative of the whole country yada yada yada. The study does not mean that nursery school teachers in the conservative Red States are cursed with classes filled with little proto-conservative whiners.

Another way of saying it is that self-reliance predicts statistically about 7
per cent of the variance between kids who became liberal and those who became
conservative. (If every self-reliant kid became a liberal and none became
conservatives, it would predict 100 per cent of the variance). Seven per cent is
fairly strong for social science, but it still leaves an awful lot of room for
other influences, such as friends, family, education, personal experience and
plain old intellect.

Those caveats can be brushed off by liberals by saying that they are like the warnings you hear after drug ads. Do not take the pill if you have liver problem of heart disease. Common side effects are mild and may include diarrhea and vomitting etc. That stuff is supposed to be ignored while regaling in the pure mellifluous flattery that this study is, if you are a liberal.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into
bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests.
...insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.

Chew on that you sissy Charles Krauthammer. I've got to go… There is much boasting to do and friends' legs crying to be pulled.


Nilu said...

He is forgiven.

And since when did you get to pull anyone's anything?

Gaurav said...


Chetan said...

Nilu: Forgiven so soon? And I don't pull anything, I only have the leg fetish.

Gaurav: I know what you are thinking!!! In my defense, if any is required, I do hate Krauthammer, I really do. Just check out his photograph anywhere on the web, especially his smile, and then go solve this quiz by Maddox. ;)

For Krauthammer fans: Emboldened as I am after the study helped me discover the self-reliant confident side of my personality, I am not yet brave enough to charge Krauthammer with anything. It is but a mere joke.

Arignar Annavin Thambi said...

Contrary to common perception, all kids- whiny or not- are liberals. Those who grow up become conservatives.

Chetan said...

Arignar Annavin Thambi: Why is that contrary to common perception? I would assume the common perception to be what you stated. Those who grow up become conservatives. :) In case you intended to take a jab at liberals by insinuating they remain kids, I think liberals would be happy to take it as a compliment. Kids are the ones who are creative. The grown up conservatives with their dogmas stifle creativity.

Arignar Annavin Thambi said...

Yeah..and kids don't pay the taxes. Conservative adults pay the taxes for liberal 'New Deal' fairy tales.

And seriously, don't take these kinda articles to heart. It's liberal pukewash.

?! said...


Do one things that kids don't do.

Ignore idiots.

Gautam Bastian said...

7% of variation is really quite small. One way of thinking about it is that suppose there is a class of 100 average kids, on the average 7 of them will follow the given pattern. The remaining 93 grow up independent of this pattern. Another is that, childhood whiny-ness accounts for only 7% of adult political orientation.

The assumption also seems to be that there are only 2 states of adult political orientation. In a recent op-ed Cato's David Boaz says that 27% of were identified as conservative, 24% as liberal, 20% as populist and 20% as libertarian. If this is true, then the study you cite only explains behaviour amongst about half of the American population. Further there is variation overtime in the strengths of these categories which are discounted by the study, that seems to imply at some level that definition as liberal or conservative would remain static once adulthood is attained.

I wonder whether the study makes you believe that you were a strong and confident kid, or whether you actually were that. If the former, then the value of this study would be totally different from that which you suggest :-).

Chetan said...

Gautam: This was no serious piece of analysis. I found the findings funny and hence I linked them. So I am not suggesting any value to the study apart from using it as means to take a few digs at your conservative friends. ;)

Having said that, I haven't come across any blogger or even an academic challenging the study on statistical grounds as of now. Even the most strident criticisms are regarding links with IQ that the study makes and also about the indicators the study uses to determine conservatism and liberalism. Critics say that they may not reflect common perception of the ideologies under question or cannot predict voter behaviour depending on the stance on issues. Here is the link to the original study. I am not certain but I am assuming that the variance the report speaks of is variance (square of the deviation from the mean) from what the mean predictive behaviour of the population based on the criteria the authors used to determine allegiance to Lib/Con viewpoints. So I am not too sure whether it would be accurate to say that only 7 out of 100 will turn out to be that way. Of course I may be wrong.

That last para in your comment reminded me of those sun sign astrology fans. It's all backward reasoning for them. Also, there is a very interesting personality test online. It makes the reader answer some 40 serious questions and then presents a result. But the result is generic. Everyone who gives the test is given the same personality assessment and after the test you are asked to say whether you agreed with what was written. Over 90% of those who gave the test agreed that it gave the assessment of their personalities accurately. I will link to it if I come across it online again. It is quite interesting. And as to answer that question honestly, I guess I was a very stable person as a kid. I think confident is a tricky adjective to use during your nursery years but self-reliant definitely. A more interesting question would have been whether I am a liberal. ;)

BTW. I am embarassed about that email I promised and never got down to writing. It is still under construction is all I can say. My apologies.

Anon said...

What the heck is the conservative/liberal thing anyway?Do u have this mirror that tells u who is a conservative and who is not ? Whats the big deal with being conservative/liberal ( whatever u claim to be), if u r plain stupid !!

neha said...

What about the bullies? (They become bloggers?) And the tale-tellers? (They become avid linkers!) I like this neat categorization. Makes slotting people so much easier I tell you.

Chetan said...

Neha: You are right. They should study blogger behaviour as well. I am most curious to know about the nursery school habits of the ones who become anonymous trolls. ;)

The Girl Who Sold The World said...

Haha...what a hilarious find! Well, the wimpy kids don't change much when they become adults (in name only), do they? What do the conservatives usually do? Wimp, whine, cry, squeal, call names etc. etc. etc. Not much of a change from wimpy cry-babies to whiny conservatives, is it? ;)

There is much boasting to do and friends' legs crying to be pulled. exciting! :P

Anon said...

I would be curious about these "self appointed judges of conservative/liberal behavior"

Art Dodger said...

Fabulous comment by Neha. There is a blogger in the Indian blogosphere who is both of what Neha says. He gives a Wiki link in each of his post " I am a l". :) Of course, his basic insecurity shines through comments like these. I would like to do a research on his whiny insecure (and possibly abused) childhood . It would be a fascinating case study.

great post Chetan . You are a great man.

Amit said...

Tug Along! Nice one! Allow me to do the honours if you find a nice pair. ;)