New study: Many highly educated people mistakenly believe they're left-wing

Really? The only one I can think of is Mickey Kaus.

The study suggests that some people may end up voting for left of centre parties because they hold the mistaken belief that they are left wing…

“The most startling result is that the more educated tend to believe that they are more left-wing than they are measured as being,” said Dr Rockey. “That is, well-educated individuals are more likely to think that they are quite left-wing but actually believe things that compared to the rest of the population would make them comparatively right-wing.

“The analysis suggests that the cause of this is different to the effect of gender, income, or job type. Other results suggest that men and those with higher-incomes are more likely to both think that they are rightwing and to be measured as such.”

Dr Rockey said one speculative explanation is that people may hold on to their perception that they have left-wing views, but that over time as their circumstances and social network changes their actual political opinions drift rightwards.

Two things. First, the sample involves 136,000 individuals from 82 countries, which may starkly limit its application to the U.S. After all, as every American poll-watcher knows, voters here are verrrrry reluctant to describe themselves as “liberal.” In fact, since 1992, the highest number willing to call themselves that was 22 percent in 2007 and 2008; by comparison, the lowest number willing to call themselves either “conservative” or “moderate” was the 35 percent who self-described as the latter this year. Plain and simple, the average world intellectual is probably more comfortable with the idea of him/herself as a left-winger — too comfortable, in fact, per the study’s results — than the average American intellectual is. Three cheers for our center-right country!

Second, while it’s true that lots of people become more conservative as they age, does anyone doubt that a huge swath cling to their left-wing identity not out of force of youthful habit but because they had it drummed into them in school that “intelligent” necessarily means “liberal”? The basic finding of the study is actually really banal: Namely, political labels aren’t a pure function of policy choices but carry all sorts of cultural and emotional baggage with them. If an intellectual associates voting conservative with being a moron, then yeah, of course he’s going to favor liberals even as he’s pining away for tax cuts. His pride is bound up in it; no doubt there are analogs for self-identified conservatives who favor some lefty policies (a rural voter squeamish about guns, maybe?). Exit question: Er, how do we explain David Brooks?

Update: A perfect illustration.

MATTHEWS: You, you sir, strike me, as I hate to use the word, as someone who’s well-educated. I know you went to UVA Law School. Is that hurting you? Is – no I’m dead serious about this. Do you get hurt in the Republican Party now for having had a fine education? Do people think, look askance at you and say, “Oh he’s an egghead, he’s got a good degree from UVA” Is that a problem now, it’s better to be a yahoo? Well I mean to be really uneducated like Palin, to really be proud of the fact you don’t know anything?