Thursday, October 17, 2013

Some data on education, religiosity, ideology, and science comprehension

I have lifted the article below from a Leftist source holus bolus. It is of the genre that tries to find something psychologically wrong with conservatives and religious people  -- a long quest going back at least to 1950 which is yet to turn up anything convincing.  So it is pleasing that the guy below finds nothing discreditable to conservatives and religious people either.  He seems to be an honest Leftist

Because the "asymmetry thesis" just won't leave me alone, I decided it would be sort of interesting to see what the relationship was between a "science comprehension" scale I've been developing and political outlooks.

The "science comprehension" measure is a composite of 11 items from the National Science Foundation's "Science Indicators" battery, the standard measure of "science literacy" used in public opinion studies (including comparative ones), plus a 10 items from an extended version of the Cognitive Reflection Test, which is normally considered the best measure of the disposition to engage in conscious, effortful information processing ("System 2") as opposed to intuitive, heuristic processing ("System 1").  

The items scale well together (α= 0.81) and can be understood to measure a disposition that combines substantive science knowledge with a disposition to use critical reasoning skills of the sort necessary to make valid inferences from observation. We used a version of a scale like this--one combining the NSF science literacy battery with numeracy--in our study of how science comprehension magnifies cultural polarization over climate change and nuclear power.

Although the scale is designed to (and does) measure a science-comprehension aptitude that doesn't reduce simply to level of education, one would expect it to correlate reasonably strongly with education and it does (r = 0.36, p < .01). The practical significance of the impact education makes to science comprehension so measured can be grasped pretty readily, I think, when the performance of those who have and who haven't graduated from college is graphically displayed in a pair of overlaid histograms:

The respondents, btw, consisted of a large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults recruited to participate in a study of vaccine risk perceptions that was administered this summer (the data from that are coming soon!).

Both science literacy and CRT have been shown to correlate negatively with religiosity. And there is, in turns out, a modest negative correlation (r = -0.26, p < 0.01) between the composite science comprehension measure and a religiosity scale formed by aggregating church attendance, frequency of prayer, and self-reported "importance of God" in the respondents' lives.

I frankly don't think that that's a very big deal. There are plenty of highly religious folks who have a high science comprehension score, and plenty of secular ones who don't.  When it comes to conflict over decision-relevant science, it is likely to be more instructive to consider how religiosity and science comprehension interact, something I've explored previously.

Now, what about politics?

Proponents of the "asymmetry thesis" tend to emphasize the existence of a negative correlation between conservative political outlooks and various self-report measures of cognitive style--ones that feature items such as  "thinking is not my idea of fun" & "the notion of thinking abstractly is appealing to me." 

These sorts of self-report measures predict vulnerability to one or another reasoning bias less powerfully than CRT and numeracy, and my sense is that they are falling out of favor in cognitive psychology. 

In my paper, Ideology, Motivated Reasoning, and Cognitive Reflection, I found that the Cogntive Reflection Test did not meaningfully correlate with left-right political outlooks.

In this dataset, I found that there is a small correlation (r = -0.05, p = 0.03) between the science comprehension measure and a left-right political outlook measure, Conservrepub, which aggregates liberal-conservative ideology and party self-identification. The sign of the correlation indicates that science comprehension decreases as political outlooks move in the rightward direction--i.e., the more "liberal" and "Democrat," the more science comprehending.

Do you think this helps explain conflicts over climate change or other forms of decision-relevant science? I don't.

But if you do, then maybe you'll find this interesting.  The dataset happened to have an item in it that asked respondents if they considered themselves "part of the Tea Party movement." Nineteen percent said yes.

It turns out that there is about as strong a correlation between scores on the science comprehension scale and identifying with the Tea Party as there is between scores on the science comprehension scale and Conservrepub.  

Except that it has the opposite sign: that is, identifying with the Tea Party correlates positively (r = 0.05, p = 0.05) with scores on the science comprehension measure:

Again, the relationship is trivially small, and can't possibly be contributing in any way to the ferocious conflicts over decision-relevant science that we are experiencing.

I've got to confess, though, I found this result surprising. As I pushed the button to run the analysis on my computer, I fully expected I'd be shown a modest negative correlation between identifying with the Tea Party and science comprehension.

But then again, I don't know a single person who identifies with the Tea Party.  All my impressions come from watching cable tv -- & I don't watch Fox News very often -- and reading the "paper" (New York Times daily, plus a variety of politics-focused internet sites like Huffington Post & Politico).  

I'm a little embarrassed, but mainly I'm just glad that I no longer hold this particular mistaken view.

Of course, I still subscribe to my various political and moral assessments--all very negative-- of what I understand the "Tea Party movement" to stand for. I just no longer assume that the people who happen to hold those values are less likely than people who share my political outlooks to have acquired the sorts of knowledge and dispositions that a decent science comprehension scale measures.

I'll now be much less surprised, too, if it turns out that someone I meet at, say, the Museum of Science in Boston, or the Chabot Space and Science Museum in Oakland, or the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is part of the 20% (geez-- I must know some of them) who would answer "yes" when asked if he or she identifies with the Tea Party.  If the person is there, then it will almost certainly be the case that that he or she & I will agree on how cool the stuff is at the museum, even if we don't agree about many other matters of consequence.

Next time I collect data, too, I won't be surprised at all if the correlations between science comprehension and political ideology or identification with the Tea Party movement disappear or flip their signs.  These effects are trivially small, & if I sample 2000+ people it's pretty likely any discrepancy I see will be "statistically significant"--which has precious little to do with "practically significant."



Big Insurance: Obamacare’s Wealthiest Lobby and Largest Beneficiary

One of the country’s top lobbyists for Obamacare is now pushing to end the law’s tax on health insurance premiums. This doesn’t represent a change of heart, however. It merely shows her commitment to advocating on behalf of the insurance industry. Karen Ignagni, the CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, spearheaded efforts for health reform to include mandates and government subsidies—the net effect of which is to line the pockets of insurance executives. Already, Obamacare has done wonders for the stock prices of the leading insurance companies, as Independent Institute Senior Fellow Lawrence J. McQuillan notes in an op-ed published in the Orange County Register and many other McClatchy newspapers.

In the two-plus years since President Obama signed his signature healthcare legislation into law, Aetna’s stock price has risen by one third, UnitedHealth’s has increased by 65 percent, and Humana’s has jumped more than three-fourths. “It pays to be one of the few sellers of a product the government is going to force everyone to buy and provides subsides to help them do it,” McQuillan writes.

Although the insurance industry is campaigning to eliminate a tax on insurance premiums, Ignangi’s group has actively supported efforts to enroll consumers in the new healthcare exchanges, via its contribution of seed money to Enroll America. This may be good for the insurance industry, but it’s bad news for consumers, McQuillan argues. “Americans would be better served by a patient-driven system of privately purchased, affordable and portable health insurance with health savings accounts and payment assistance for the poor,” he writes. “Tax breaks would go to individuals, not employers. This would put more buying power in the hands of patients seeking the best health care at the lowest price.”



The People v. K Street: The Obamacare Battle

(K street is where most congressional lobbyists have their offices)

The K Street vultures are out in force.

With both the continuing resolution and debt ceiling extension legislation pending, the tassel loafer lobbying crowd has descended on Capitol Hill with Obamacare fixes and other wish lists to be crammed into any final resolution.

Big Labor wants changes in the way reinsurance is taxed under Obamacare, and suddenly the Senate Democrats have this “important” reform in the still mysterious “compromise” they are fashioning.

Medical device manufacturers like General Electric have never liked the tax imposed on their products through the Obamacare law arguing that it will drive production of the devices oversees and will stifle new life enhancing research.  House Republicans included the elimination of this tax in one of their offers to end the partial government shut down.  Not surprisingly, Senate Democrats reportedly have not included the medical device tax into their legislation, leaving it as a bargaining chip.

The debt ceiling debate is perhaps even worse as every special interest that gets a dime from the federal government is being heard in lawmakers offices asking for “relief” from the sequester that has driven down real dollar discretionary federal spending much to the horror of those who thrive on it.

This almost shark like feeding frenzy trying to get goodies into these two must-pass pieces of legislation is as predictable as the rising sun, and it is why the battle to shrink the size and scope of government seems like a one step forward, two steps back proposition.

Growers of government spending have a financial vested interest in hiring former appropriators, congressional best friends, former staff of key legislators and Administration hacks to ensure that they get their piece of the big government pie.  Each has a “legitimate” need that is worth borrowing money to achieve, and they are pressing all their buttons to get their client’s desires funded, or lower the taxes imposed on their products.

These hordes of special interest lobbyists from business, labor, environmental groups, and a myriad of others dwarf the inside the beltway voices demanding less government and that a disastrous law like Obamacare be stopped.

Ironically, the very health insurance lobby that the left demonizes as being against the law, has already adapted and is most likely one of the behind the scenes voices for the status quo.

Harry and Louise have been long retired as the industry cut deals to ensure their survival under Obamacare.

The next few days are going to be filled with Members of Congress and the Administration gaining carve outs for their preferred constituencies in exchange for their votes.

This is the Washington, D.C. that the people reject, where you have to pass legislation to know what is in it.

Now is the time for House Republicans should stand firm, expose these special deals and demand that Obamacare be defunded or delayed in its entirety.

Obamacare is broken and everyone knows it.  But unlike a vehicle with a bad water pump that can easily be repaired, Obamacare is fraught with design flaws that are beyond repair.

It would be almost criminal to allow it to go forward, while allowing the politically connected protection from the law while the rest of America is forced to deal with it.

So far, House Republicans and nineteen Republican Senators can tell their constituents that they are doing everything in their power to stop this train wreck from impacting their family’s health care.

Perhaps it is time for those Americans to say thank you.  While the easy path is to help your lobbyist buddies and get accolades in the New York Times for your trouble, the hard one is to keep fighting for stopping the law.

The people always say in polling that they want legislators who will fight for what is right, elected officials who stand with them over the powerful special interests.

Today America has this group of legislators and they are being excoriated from all sides for standing up for the people.

The people need to stand up and thank those who are fighting Obamacare against all odds now, or forever hold your peace.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


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