Hi, this is Milo.  I’m from Alaska originally, but have been living in Seattle for the past several years.  I studied music as an undergraduate before switching majors and graduating from the University of Washington with a BA in communications with a journalism emphasis.  I’m here pursuing an MI degree.  I have been leaning toward the CIS path, but after the reading for this class this week I’m starting to consider the thesis option as well.

When I thought about topics that would be fun to research, right away I remembered these charts I had seen on political polarization and education level.  I tracked down the original blog post here.  It runs counter to our intuition that education would make someone less likely to answer a question correctly, but the thinking here is that this is due to elite signaling, and an arguably rational “outsourcing” of thinking on complex issues to opinion leaders.

As interesting as this subject is to me, I kind of ran into a ditch when I got to the part in the Luker reading where she talks about coming up with specific, meaningful questions.  The only thing I can think of is perhaps I should “review the literature”, or some of it anyway, as I’m sure there’s a great deal more research on the subject that I know nothing about.  If anyone has any reactions, that could be helpful too.


3 thoughts on “Hello

  1. Beth Dennis


    I’ve been thinking about the study you linked to for a few days now. It’s so fascinating and so surprising and so timely. I tend to get my exposure to American politics from the “fake news”, so I’m no expert but I’m really interested in what you’re doing. I think it’s a great idea for a research project. Do you have ideas on what you’ll focus on?

  2. hannahmasterman

    Ooh Milo,

    Cool stuff. I remember I went to lecture about the polarization between well-educated Reps and Demos on the theory of evolution a few years ago (sorry, I can’t remember who gave that lecture), and it was really fascinating.

    This probably isn’t relevant to the direction you want to take, but this stuff reminds me of a theory I encountered while I was doing my undergrad (I was in psychology, so bear with me). There’s a lot of work in psychology about persuasion: when and how attitudes are changed based on some political message or advertisement. One of the things said to effect whether or not someone’s attitude will change is their thought confidence. When people are thinking something positive when an ad is presented to them, increasing their confidence is those thoughts increases the degree they will be persuaded by the message; when they think something negative, increasing confidence will decrease persuasion. There’s an article I’m getting this from. It’s by Richard Petty, a big name in persuasion lit. It’s called “Thought Confidence as a Determinant of Persuasion: The Self-Validation Hypothesis” and it’s here:

    Anyway, my hypothesis is this: presented with info on evolution, Democrats have positive thoughts, Reps. have negative ones. Intelligence (or IQ or education level) acts as a factor that increases confidence (I think that’s also been demonstrated somewhere in the literature). So, the more intelligent a Rep. is, the more confidence he has, so the less likely he is to be persuaded by a message about evolution. Vice versa for Democrats.


    1. miloanderson Post author

      Thanks Hannah,
      That’s been kind of the direction of my thinking, too. I’ve heard of some other interesting studies pertaining to “motivated reasoning” and partisan identification (for example, getting different rates of agreement if subjects are told the Dem or Rep party supports idea X). But as you point out, this is getting into the realm of psychology, which I know next to nothing about. My background is in mass communication, but every time I think of a specific, relevant question pertaining to mass com. that needs answering my next thought is “OK, but how would I go about finding the answer to that without spending $$$$ on a polling firm, etc…?” Not sure how to bridge that gap, but I’m thinking about a separate post on it that might help some other people too.


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