Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Official: Leftists Don't Grasp Basic Economics, Study Shows . . .

. . . but conservatives and libertarians do.

Yet another demonstration of why Americans should not let leftists anywhere near our economy comes from a study conducted by a pair of Zogby researchers who found that, when it comes to the ABC's of the economy, leftists belong in the corner with dunce caps. On the other hand, conservatives on the whole have a good grasp of economic principles. In fact, the more conservative a person is, the better understanding of economics he or she is likely to have.

In a survey of almost 5,000 American adults, those who identified themselves as very conservative or libertarian were able to correctly answer about 7 out of 8 questions on economics, but those who identified themselves as progressives or very liberal were able to correctly answer only about 3 of those 8 questions. Across the board, conservatives of every stripe understood how the economy works much better than their liberal brethren.

Color me unsurprised.

From The Wall Street Journal, courtesy PoliticalJunkie Mom via Hot Air headlines.
Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.

Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents' (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.

Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.

Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.

Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.

In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.

The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.

Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.
Read the rest here.


  1. Love the image. You have to be economically ignorant to embrace socialism. I think this is why progressives hate capitalism, people tend to fear what they do not understand.

  2. Trestin -- Good point. I'll have to keep that in mind.