Does Political Ideology Change as we Age?

It has long been accepted conventional wisdom that as we age we become more conservative in our political views. Remember the quote that has been (allegedly) wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill:

“If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart.  If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.”

But as with many things, conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to be very wise. According to recent research, individuals do not become more conservative as they age. In fact, just the opposite may be true. From an article on the Discovery magazine website, we learn:

Ongoing research, however, fails to back up the stereotype [about age and conservatism]. While there is some evidence that today’s seniors may be more conservative than today’s youth, that’s not because older folks are more conservative than they use to be. Instead, our modern elders likely came of age at a time when the political situation favored more conservative views.

In fact, studies show that people may actually get more liberal over time when it comes to certain kinds of beliefs. That suggests that we are not pre-determined to get stodgy, set in our ways or otherwise more inflexible in our retirement years. [emphasis added]

The studies do reference data collected in the United States, but there’s no reason to think that the same phenomenon wouldn’t apply in other advanced capitalist democracies.

How do your political beliefs compare to those of your parents? What was the political climate like at the time your parents were becoming politically aware? In which country (if it wasn’t Canada) did your parents come of political age?

Are your Political Attitudes and Ideologies Biologically Determined?

Next week (January 31) in POLI 1100, we’ll be discussing political attitudes and political ideologies. The conclusion of Chapter 5 in Dyck summarizes political ideologies nicely:

Conflicting ideologies offer us a means of understanding our society, situating ourselves in the political world, and participating in actions intended to advance our interests and those of our communities.

What is the source of any individual’s political ideological leanings? A common answer is that we are politically socialized into our ideologies. Agents of political socialization such as families, churches, educational institutions, and the media play prominent roles in the process of an individual’s ideological development. But what if we were biologically pre-disposed to our ideological views. Is there a chance that some of us are more conservative, and others more liberal, from birth, and the role that agents of political socialization is negligible? According to recent research, the answer to that question may be ‘yes’. How much of the developmental process of political ideology is nature and how much is nurture?

As much as we stake our identity on such core beliefs, it’s unlikely we emerged from the womb as little liberals or libertarians. This raises a fundamental question: At what point in our development did such predispositions begin to form, to coalesce and to harden? What is it about our biology and/or psychology that propels us toward a liberal or conservative mindset?

The question has long intrigued social psychologists such as John Jost of New York University. In a 2003 meta-analysis of 50 years of research, he summarizes the overwhelming evidence that political ideologies, “like virtually all other belief systems, are adopted in part because they satisfy various psychological needs.” Jost quickly adds that this “is not to say they are unprincipled, unwarranted, or unresponsive to reason or evidence” — only that the underlying motivation to believe in them emerges from somewhere other than the rational, conscious mind.

According to Jost, political ideologies derive from our effort to “satisfy…psychological needs.” What, though, gives rise to these psychological needs? It could very well be our biology/physiology:

Researchers at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln showed people a series of photos — some endearing, some disgusting — and then measured their physiological and cognitive reactions. Conservatives, in keeping with past literature, reacted more strongly to the negative images, and liberals strongly to the positive ones…

…“I figured because conservatives reacted more strongly to negative things, they’d be more likely to avoid them,” said Mike Dodd, an assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author. “That ended up not being the case. They ended up locking onto them quicker and taking more time on them, which makes sense from a policy perspective. Oftentimes they end up confronting things that they think of as threats.” [emphasis added]

Are these findings consistent with your personal experience? Are they plausible explanations for the political ideological leanings of your friends and family?

Do you even know your political ideology? Here’s a relatively painless online test you can take that summarizes political ideologies in a two-dimensional (left-right; authoritarian-libertarian) scale.

Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 Post–Global Military Expenditures

As I noted in POLI 1140 today, your blog assignment for this week is to write a post related to anything in Chapters 1 or 2 of the Mingst and Arreguin-Toft textbook. You have until midnight, Friday January 20 to publish your post. Here is an example of what I would consider to be a good post–format, content, and length.

Military Expenditures as percentage of GDP

On p. 3 of Chapter 1 of the text (in the Thinking Theoretically section), the authors write:

In brief, realism posits that states exist in an anarchic international system. Each state bases its policies on an interpretation of national interest defined in terms of power.

While there are many types of power–economic, political, prestige, etc.,–the most important source of power and the one which states generally seek to increase as much as possible, is military power. Because of anarchy, realists believe that states are constantly concerned about their security. States that feel more insecure seek to increase their power, thereby increasing the sizes of their military, all else being equal. It would be interesting to find out which states spend a lot on their military, and which states spend less. Fortunately, Globalsecurity.org has compiled the data for us. In their most recent summary of global military expenditures (from 2011), we find some interesting data. I have copied the top 20 (in terms of absolute dollars spent) in the table below. For a list of all countries, click on the link above.

WORLD Gross Domestic Product Military Spending
State GDP rank % GDP
mil
rank Military spending
WORLD $70,155,374,950,000.00


$2,157,172,000,000.00
United States $14,120,000,000,000.00 2 5.20% 25 $741,200,000,000.00
China $8,818,000,000,000.00 3 4.30% 23 $380,000,000,000.00
India $3,680,000,000,000.00 5 2.50% 62 $92,000,000,000.00
Russia $2,116,000,000,000.00 8 3.90% 27 $82,500,000,000.00
Saudi Arabia $590,900,000,000.00 23 10.00% 3 $59,090,000,000.00
France $2,094,000,000,000.00 9 2.60% 57 $54,444,000,000.00
United Kingdom $2,123,000,000,000.00 7 2.40% 63 $50,952,000,000.00
Turkey $879,900,000,000.00 17 5.30% 16 $46,634,700,000.00
Germany $2,815,000,000,000.00 6 1.50% 102 $42,225,000,000.00
Korea, South $1,362,000,000,000.00 13 2.70% 53 $36,774,000,000.00
Brazil $2,010,000,000,000.00 10 1.70% 89 $34,170,000,000.00
Japan $4,149,000,000,000.00 4 0.80% 150 $33,192,000,000.00
Italy $1,737,000,000,000.00 11 1.80% 86 $31,266,000,000.00
Indonesia $960,200,000,000.00 16 3.00% 47 $28,806,000,000.00
Iran $825,900,000,000.00 19 2.50% 60 $20,647,500,000.00
Spain $1,359,000,000,000.00 14 1.20% 122 $16,308,000,000.00
Taiwan $734,300,000,000.00 20 2.20% 68 $16,154,600,000.00
Israel $206,900,000,000.00 51 7.30% 6 $15,103,700,000.00
Greece $332,900,000,000.00 35 4.30% 24 $14,314,700,000.00
Canada $1,277,000,000,000.00 15 1.10% 127 $14,047,000,000.00

Continue reading “Chapter 1 or Chapter 2 Post–Global Military Expenditures”

Globalization is good…or is it?

Is globalization good for those in developing countries? What is the link between globalization and poverty? What about globalization and democracy? Today in IS210 we watched a documentary in which the narrator argued that more globalization is good for the poor in developing countries. He argued that countries that have (and are) globalizing, such as Taiwan and Vietnam,  have become richer, more democratic, and poverty levels have plummeted. On the other hand, countries that haven’t democratized, regardless of whether this is the result of domestic or external policy, have done poorly. They’re less democratic and poorer than they otherwise could be.

Here’s a link to the documentary, and some questions that you may want to think about:

  1. Has globalization been beneficial or detrimental to Taiwan’s economic development? Explain.
  2. What role, according to the narrator, do multi-national corporations (MNCs) play in globalization? Should LDCs embrace the arrival of MNCs into their economies? How can the example of Vietnam inform our answers to these questions? Is there a link between MNCs and worker productivity?
  3. According to the narrator, what was the role of sweatshops in the development of Taiwan’s economy? Were they necessary?
  4. What is the link between globalization and democracy? What is the process that causes this empirical link?
  5. What is the reason for Africa’s slow growth, according to the narrator? Which of Collier and Gunning’s [from Chapter 9 of Essential Readings) four categories would apply? How does the situation of Kenya inform our answers to this question?
  6. What is the e ect of developing countries trade policies on economic outcomes in Kenya and in other parts of the developing world?

Links to Articles and other Sources on State Capacity

For your first paper assignment (IS 210) you will be required to compare the nature of the state in two countries. One of the dimensions across which you will compare is state capacity. To help you out, here are some interesting sources:

First, here is the link to a presentation at the World Bank building state capacity in Africa. Here is a description:

If Africa is to have a well-functioning public sector there needs to be a paradigm shift in how to analyze and build state capacity. This is the core message in a new book from the World Bank, Building State Capacity in Africa: New Approaches, Emerging Lessons. Specifically, African governments and their partners should move from a narrow focus on organizational, technocratic, and public management approaches, to a broader perspective that incorporates both the political dynamics and the institutional rules of the game within which public organizations operate.BUILDING STATE CAPACITY IN AFRICA presents and analyzes recent experiences with supply-side efforts to build administrative capacity (administrative reform, pay policies, budget formulation), and demand-side efforts to strengthen government accountability to citizens (role and impact of national parliaments, dedicated anticorruption agencies, political dynamics of decentralization, education decentralization).

The second source is a paper by Mauricio of the Brookings Institution on “State Capacity in Latin America”. Cardenas writes:

State capacity is exceptionally low in Latin America, even when compared to other former colonies. This paper analyzes four possible factors that could potentially explain this troubling feature: political inequality, inequality, interstate conflict and civil war. With the exception of external war, these variables have a negative effect on state-building in models where the accumulation of state capacity is analogous to investment under uncertainty. These analytical predictions are then tested with cross-country data, paying special attention to Latin America. Democracy’s impact on state capacity is quite positive, as is the effect of the frequency of external wars when data for the last century is used. However, in the data for the last half century, external wars have little effect, but the negative effects of internal wars and income inequality become highly significant. The model explains why Latin America has failed to develop its state, despite the improvement in the various measures of democracy. In fact, both the theoretical model and the empirical evidence suggest that the effects of democracy are undermined in the presence of high economic inequality.

 

How to read tables of statistical regression results

Next week–January 21st–we’ll be looking at the debate between cultural and rationalist approaches to the analysis of political phenomena. As Whitefield and Evans note in the abstract of their 1999 article in the British Journal of Political Science:

There has been considerable disagreement among political scientists over the relative merits of political culture versus rational choice explanations of democratic and liberal norms and commitments. However, empirical tests of their relative explanatory power using quantitative evidence have been in short supply.

Their analysis of the political attitudes of Czech and Slovak residents is relatively rare in that the research is explicitly designed to assess the relative explanatory purchase of cultural and rationalist approaches to the study of political phenomena. Whitefield and Evans compile evidence (observational data) by means of a survey questionnaire given to random samples of Czech and Slovak residents. In order to assess the strengths of rationalist versus cultural accounts, Whitefield and Evans use statistical regression analysis. Some of you may be unfamiliar with statistical regression analysis, This blog post will explain what you need to know to understand the regression analysis results summarised in Tables 7 through 9 in the text.

Let’s take a look at Table 7. Here the authors are trying to “explain” the level of “democratic commitment”–that is, the level of commitment to democratic principles–of Czech and Slovak residents. Thus, democratic commitment is the dependent variable. The independent, or explanatory, variables can be found in the left-most column. These are factors that the authors hypothesize to have causal influence on the level of democratic commitment of the survey respondents. Some of these are nationality–Slovaks, Hungarians, political experience and evaluations–past and future–of the country’s and family’s well-being.

Each of the three remaining columns–Models 1 through 3–represents the results of a single statistical regression analysis (or model). Let’s take a closer look at the first model–ethnic and country dummy variables. In this model, the only independent variables analysed are one’s country and/or ethnic origin. The contrast category is Czechs, which means that the results are interpreted relative to how those of Czech residence/ethnicity answered. We see that the sign for the result of each of the two explanatory variables–Slovaks and Hungarians–is negative. What this means is that relative to Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians demonstrated less democratic commitment. The two ** to the right of the numerical results (-0.18 and -0.07, respectively) indicate that this result is unlikely to be due to chance and is considered to be statistically significant. This would suggest that deep-seated cultural traditions–ethnicity/country or residence–have a strong causal (or correlational, at least) effect on the commitment of newly democratic citizens to democracy. Does this interpretation of the data still stand when we add other potential causal variables, as in Models 2 and 3? What do you think?

Signing up for a WordPress account

As I mentioned in lecture today, I’ve decided to allow those of you who are a little bit reticent about speaking in tutorial/lecture to supplement your participation grade via commenting on entries to this blog. In order to do so, you’ll have to sign up for a wordpress user account. To do so, go to and fill out the form. Make sure that you’re only signing up for an account rather than for a blog as well (unless, of course, you’d like to create your own blog). You can create a user name that is pseudonymous if you’re wary about publicly revealing your name. If you choose a pseudonym, make sure you e-mail me to let me know what it is.

In order to sign-up for a user name only, make sure that you click on the “sign up for just a user name” link after going to the link above. See the arrow in the diagram below. Happy commenting!!

“Ghosts of Rwanda” Documentary

As a video supplement to the Rwanda chapter from Samantha Power’s book on genocide, and the Gourevitch book, we viewed the first part of the PBS Frontline documentary “Ghosts of Rwanda” in class today. Please view the remaining hour or so sometime before next Friday’s class as we will use the first portion of that session to continue our discussion on the international community’s failure to halt the slaughter of more than 800,000 Tutsis by the Hutu-led Rwandan government.Here’s the first part of the documentary. Click on the video to take yourself to Youtube, where you will easily find the remaining parts.

 

Tips for Students on Writing Good Papers

Henry Farrell, who teaches political science at George Washington University, has posted an essay with tips for students writing political science papers. There are some important insights, such as “cut to the chase”, “organize, organize, organize”, and “avoid data dumps.” In my opinion, his most important tip (and this would also apply to examinations) is “read the requirements for the assignment.” If you’re unsure about the requirements, or there is something you don’t understand, seek clarification from your professor/instructor. The whole essay can be found here:

 

New and Old Wars Reading Questions

Here are some questions that we will try to answer in class, based on the Mueller, Kalyvas, Collier & Hoeffler, and Kaldor readings:

Thematic Questions:

  1. How has the nature of warfare changed (or has it) over the course of the last 70 years or so? Provide evidence from at least four sources.
  2. Comparatively assess the arguments of Collier & Hoeffer, Kalyvas, Mueller, and Kaldor. What are some commonalities? Divergence of opinion?
  3. What are the policy implications–from a humanitarian perspective–of taking each of the authors’ arguments seriously? Discuss.

Collier & Hoeffler (2004) “Greed and Grievance in Civil War

  1. De fine `greed’ and `grievance’ in the context of the analysis of rebellion/civil war.
  2. What are the types of causal mechanisms that each term implies?
  3. What do C & L mean by `opportunity’?
  4. Based on the statistical results, what conclusion do C & L draw regarding the causes of the onset of rebellion?
  5. What is the analytical importance of diaspora communities?
  6. How important are ethnic grievances in fomenting rebellion?

. Mueller (2000) The Banality of `Ethnic War’

  1. Why does Mueller put the words ethnic war in scare quotes in the title?
  2. What does Mueller mean when he says that ethnic war is `banal?’
  3. What evidence does Mueller use to support his main argument(s)?
  4. According to Mueller, what are the stages of ethnic war and ethnic cleansing?
  5. What is `ethnic cleansing’?
  6. Did ethnicity play any role in the inter-ethnic violence in Yugoslavia and Rwanda? Continue reading “New and Old Wars Reading Questions”