Tuesday, August 19, 2008

More Data on Professors' Voting Habits: Variability and Conscientiousness

I've a couple more thoughts to share from Josh Rust's and my study of the voting rates of ethicists and political philosophers vs. other professors. (Our general finding is that ethicists and political philosophers vote no more often than other professors, though political scientists do vote more often.)

(1.) Take a guess: Do you think extreme views about the importance or pointlessness of voting will be overrepresented, underrepresented, or proportionately represented among political scientists and political philosophers compared to professors more generally? My own guess would be overrepresented: I'd expect both more maniacs about the importance of voting and more cynics about it among those who study democratic institutions than among your average run of professors.

However, the data don't support that idea. The variance in the voting rates of political scientists and political philosophers in our study is almost spot-on identical to the variance in the voting rates of professors generally. Either political scientists and political philosophers are no more prone to extreme views than are other professors, or those extreme views have no influence on their actual voting behavior.

(2.) California professors are incredibly conscientious about voting in statewide elections. Half of our sample is from California, where we only have data for statewide elections. Among California professors whose first recorded vote is in 2003 or earlier, a majority (52%) voted in every single one of the six statewide elections from 2003-2006. 72% voted in at least five of the six elections. This compares with a statewide voting rate, for the June 2006 primary election alone, of only 33.6% of registered voters. (For other states, we have local election data too. There's no such ceiling effect once you include every single local ballot initiative, city council runoff election, etc.; professors aren't quite that conscientious!)


Genius said...

is there a relationship between the likelihood of the party you want to win winning (for professors mostly democratic) and the likelyhood to vote?
Might make the act of voting less demoralizing?

Anonymous said...

It's funny to read this in Canada, and hear cumulative voting percentages of 52% and 72% being described as the result of being "incredibly conscientious" about voting.

I realize you are judging the numbers relative to an average.

But on an absolute measure, the average Canadian is probably more "conscientious" than professors in California.

Genius said...

our voter turnout in NZ is about 77% - it has been falling from a high of 89%.

I'll be voting I guess - as I do pretty much every election - although there is basically no chance of it making a difference - but maybe I think it is intrinsically interesting thing to do.

Or maybe I just want something to honestly tell people when they ask me who I voted for.

I note I don't vote every local body election - because the forms are so complex and i don't know any of the people, and the turnout there is probably 50% or a bit less I suppose.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

And compared to Australia...!

Still, I do think 52% of professors voting in 6 of 6 elections is pretty impressive, even by standards by countries like Canada (76% vote rate per Wikipedia). Consider Canada's rate of 76%: If the trials were statistically independent, the likelihood of an individual's voting in six consecutive elections would be 19%. Of course the trials are nowhere near independent, but that helps put the 52% in perspective. Or consider it this way: The odds of California professors voting in 5/6 statewide elections (72%) are comparable to the odds of a Canadian voting in any one election.

Looking at the most recent election in the California data, the general congressional election of 2006, 86% of professors who have voted at least once since 2000 voted.

Anonymous said...

76% is low for Canada for a single election. Usually it's in the 80s.

But anyway numbers on a single election won't give you the cumulative numbers: it's not random who votes.