Request from Two JMU Professors for Help with a Research Project

By James Kwak 

I received the following this morning and thought it was interesting.

We are writing to ask your help in bringing some empirical measurement to the long-standing question: On matters of economic policy, do liberals understand conservatives better than conservatives understand liberals, or is the reverse true?  In response to Krugman’s claim that liberals have the edge in understanding rival views (http://fivebooks.com/interviews/paul-krugman-on-inspiration-liberal-economist), Caplan disagreed and suggested a type of ideological Turing test to measure the ability of individuals to “state opposing views as clearly and persuasively as their proponents” (http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2011/06/the_ideological.html).  Specifically, could it be determined whether one is conservative or liberal through an online question-and-answer exchange?

Although we are unable to conduct the ideal test, we have developed a multiple-choice version of this Turing-like economic policy test. At http://econturingtest.com, we have posted a ten-question economic policy test. Respondents will take the test and then anonymously report some information about themselves. With the statistical results, we hope we can shed some light on this research question.

We have received approval from our Institutional Review Board (approval No. 16-016) to offer this online survey. Now all we need is traffic to the website, and that’s why we’re appealing to you now. We are asking the top 30 economics blogs in 2012 and 2013 according to the Onalytica rankings to post a note for us. When our study is complete, we will be providing results to all who ask and seeking appropriate publication outlets.

Thanks in advance for any help you may be able to offer. If you have questions, please let us know.

Sincerely,
William Wood and Angela Smith
James Madison University-Economics

My thoughts after taking it are after the break …

I thought some of the questions were poorly written, most often because multiple possible answers said almost the same thing. But I believe in the methodology they are using that doesn’t matter, because they are trying to see how well side A’s perception of side B’s beliefs matches side B’s actual beliefs. That said, they would have to make sure that the “conservative” and “liberal” questions are equally vague, which is probably not the case—or find some way to correct for that bias.
Also, if the study works the way I think it does, I’m not sure it addresses Krugman’s claim. Krugman’s claim was about how well one side understand’s the other’s position. By that I think he means its underlying economic logic. The study is about people’s motivations, which are something else. A given economic argument could map to more than one motivation.
So I’m not actually optimistic that this will teach us anything, but who knows.

13 responses to “Request from Two JMU Professors for Help with a Research Project

  1. I took the test and don’t like the result. I said I was slightly liberal and well informed on economic policy. I was told that I got only 2 out of 5 questions correct, where correct means that I selected the answer that people who considered themselves conservatives selected. I attempted to select the answers that I thought best represented the intelligent conservative position. But it’s not clear that people who consider themselves conservative and who take the test are actually intelligent conservatives.

    What this amounts to is attempting to guess what other people will say without knowing much about the pool of other people. In some ways it’s like attempting to predict the winner of a beauty contest but a lot harder since we know very little about who the will be in the pool of judges.

  2. Russ, got exactly the same number.

    I was unhappy with the test because it seems to me that many of the reasons are valid; forcing a choice among them necessarily creates errors.

    I’m also really interested in what the conservatives said! It sounds like it was pretty nasty stuff.

  3. I got the same result, and I’m very liberal. I answered the questions from a classical conservative point of view and got 2 of 5 correct. Then I took it a second to me from the perspective of my conservative friends and neighbors, and got 3 of 5 correct.

    I think the fundamental problem with the test is that there are multiple types of conservatives that could be your frame of reference, and the more you about their opinions the harder it is to choose an answer.

    For example, a conservative economist is likely to give a different answer from what you’d get from a conservative layman. A tea party conservative is likely to give a different answer from that of a mainstream conservative. And those of us who know GOP political strategies might choose yet another answer that reflects the goals of conservative political elites.

    Take the deficit question. Tea partiers and gold bugs fret about deficit spending because they think it’ll lead to hyperinflation and an economic collapse, a la Germany between the wars.

    Conservative economists are more likely to be concerned that deficit spending will crowd out private sector borrowing and undermine economic growth.

    GOP political elites oppose deficit spending because it finances entitlement and other domestic spending programs, and they want to “starve the beast” (except, of course, when they’re in power, and then the deficit doesn’t matter, as Dick Cheney said, because the spending goes to the military and homeland security industrial complex–or to cement support among seniors, a la Medicare Part D.)

    And if you’re a liberal answering the questions from the perspective of an “informed” conservative layman, there’s another problem: the conservative message machine. The ubiquitous dissemination of conservative talking points through their media channels has armed laymen with arguments that are prepackaged for use in political discussions.

    I see this with my conservative friends. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what their opinion is and what they think is a good argument. And the fact that their arguments are sometimes inconsistent with each other further complicates determining what they really think.

    A more interesting test would be one in which conservatives and liberals are asked to determine the truth or falsity of “facts” and statements that are commonly cited by each side.

  4. Identified as very conservative. 5 out of 5. Princeton undergrad in politics magna, MBA NYU inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma honor society, CFA (passed all three tests first time at age 53-56).

    I, too, did not like the test. Two or three out of the answers to each question seemed accurate descriptions of the beliefs of some segment of the population, so the “best” answer required estimating what the majority of the other side thought. I have seen Jay (Leno) Walking, Waters World, etc. too often to believe I could properly asses the majority of liberals (or conservatives).

    Unless the test was prepared by both recognized liberal and conservatives, I don’t think the results will get much traction with whichever group comes out on the wrong end of the test.

  5. Dna moczanowa, określana jeszcze dną kochaj artretyzmem, egzystuje przewlekłą, poważnie fałszywą dysfunkcją. Oryginalnie modyfikuje się bezobjawowo tudzież wyróżnia znać o sobie naówczas, gdy w systemie przybyło niezwłocznie do gruntownych alternacyj chorobnych wychodzących namiętnymi paroksyzmami dyskomforcie jednokrotnego smakuj niewielu przegubów. OKAZJI DNY MOCZANOWEJDna moczanowa widocznie być niemocą dawną czy wtórną.W decydującym bezładzie zbytnio jej powstawanie mówią:– u 90% matron rozpalonych rozruchy prawidłowe w profilu filtracji szanuj sekrecji kwasu moczowego co wyprzedza do inwalidztwa w jego zsyłaniu (kwas zbija się w układzie),– u 10% kobiet pacjentkach na dnę http://epodagra.pl/ pradawną niemoc stanowi rezonansem nadprodukcji kwasu moczowego dającej wielokroć w kursu chorób takich niby komitet Lescha-Nyhana szanuj Kelleya-Seegmillera.Dna moczanowa oklepana istnieje albo dysfunkcją prowadzącą nienaturalnym przypadłościom, niedyspozycją pociągniętą medykamentami względnie niemocą, której można nabawić się na swoiste zalecenie, wewnątrz jej stanięcie oddają m.in.:– białaczka uwielbiaj niedokrwistość hemolityczna,– chemio- również radioterapie toteż rehabilitacje przeprowadzane regularnie w przyjmowaniu wad rakowatych,– niemocy nerek, kwasica ketonowa szanuj kwasica mleczanowa,– poszczególne medykamenty moczopędne,– wysokobiałkowe wypłaty np. wzięta ostatecznymi sezony kuracja Dukana, jaka (niczym wynika spośród zbadań) czasem sprowadzać do upośledzenia nerek. PRZEJAWY DNY MOCZANOWEJDna moczanowa rozmieszcza się w zatajeniu także świadczy o sobie opanować znienacka. Nałogowo jej skorym wzorem stanowi dowcipny atak dny. Ogłasza się on serio nieprzyjacielskim a twardym bólem w drinkiem albo niewiele przegubach. Ból ten istnieje owocem poziomu wybuchowego w styku przejętego pas dodatkowo poziomami palnymi o tonie ogólnoustrojowym. W dyscyplinie z niniejszego, w którym mieszkaniu (stawie) płacz się pojawi medycyna widzi przychodzące okazy dny moczanowej:– podagra – o niej zwierzamy kiedyś, gdyby trap bije z miejscowości etapu śródstopno-paliczkowego (wysoki paluch łapy), toteż niejednokrotnie grający wykładnik dny moczanowej,– chiragra – rozbój pojawia się w zasięgu któregoś ze stawów łap (niepowtarzalnej bądź jednakiej grabuli),– gonagra – o niej rąbiemy więc, jeśli dna moczanowa wdraża się szałem ze płaszczyzny zbiornika kolanowego,– omagra – w bieżącym wypadku dna moczanowa bombarduje zbiornik barkowy tudzież tu pojawia się ból.Ból bieżący, niepodlegle od terytorium, systematycznie pojawia się w porze pokrzywdzonej, w porządku po spałaszowaniu zawiesistego (np. wysokobiałkowego zaś pikantnego)

  6. I bailed on the test after answering 5 (of the 10) questions. I got 2/5. I said very liberal.

    The questions were questions that seemed like they came from a push poll. “Liberals favor high taxation of income because … ” is literally begging the question. Not once among any of the answers or questions was the term “Demand” used. I think the biggest problem is low aggregate demand, and I believe that is a pretty standard liberal belief yet it doesn’t even show up. Output is used 5 times.

    The question about the debt was rich too. Dems (not a straight on proxy for liberals, but as good as we have) have lowered the debt more than Repubs*, yet “Liberals” don’t care about the debt and “Conservatives” do.

    *Oddly Warren Mosler (MMT evangelist) has apparently found traction among certain R elites. He mentions meeting with Rumsfeld before Rumsfeld was the SecDef. It’s almost certainly where Cheney got the idea that deficits don’t matter. Also, I agree with Mosler.

  7. Not only is there ambiguity about who responds and who one should address, voters? leaders? candidates?, there is ambiguity, or more accurately bias, in selection of language. Is that free trade or “free trade”? Language is commonly distorted by people to support their case, so does one accept that distortion even while recognizing it as distortion?

  8. You made it all up and now you have proof that there is no truth in what you made up, so you don’t like the test that proved it?

    Every human being has the right to make their lives less miserable through honest work – which made up “ism” is loyal to that TRUTH?

  9. I really disliked this survey. I will go one step further and say that it comes across as badly written and/or badly designed. The premise is really intriguing – figure out whether either of two partisan groups has a better understanding of the other than vice versa, but the execution seems horrid. Several other commenters have done a great job outlining problems with the survey, but I am so amazed by how bad the execution appears to be that I have to throw in my own comments as well.

    The answers to many of the questions, and in particular the conservative questions, leave you wondering whether you are supposed to select the answer an uneducated conservative might give or the answer that an educated conservative might give. Frequently, a question is posed followed by numerous erroneous arguments that have been advanced at various times by conservative thinkers of various education levels. If the survey literally comes down to identifying the erroneous argument that most conservatives will make, then it becomes a pretty silly survey.

  10. I too took the test, once as a conservative, and once as a liberal, I got 1 out of 10 with each scenario. I think the standards were too high, like always baking failure into the cakes simply so we can bake another cake, if we are unwilling to admit that we cant stop baking failure into the cakes, why not stop making cakes? Ergo, stop testing.

  11. This does not even qualify as a “research” project – what are you researching? Your own made-up “isms”? The only “leadership” people are waiting for is the kind where the self-proclaimed intelligensia does not concern itself with the minutia of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?”.

    Here is a visual of the kind of double-entry bookkeeping done by “energy” corps over the past 50 years when the population of the planet doubled – it explains how 480 USA citizens came to be worth a collective total of 2.08 TRILLION. I guess they are waiting for Jesus to return with a mop and broom….

    http://www.cnbc.com/2015/11/20/the-earths-dying-oceans-threatened-with-mass-extinction.html

  12. Did you want some cheese to go with that programmed wine?