Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

Economic Enlightenment Revisited: New Results Again Find Little Relationship Between Education and Economic Enlightenment but Vitiate Prior Evidence of the Left Being Worse

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One year ago, we reported the results of a 2008 Zogby survey that purported to gauge economic enlightenment (Buturovic and Klein 2010). Our main result was that college education bore little relationship to economic enlightenment. We also found that that self-identified Progressives and Liberals did much worse than Conservatives and Libertarians, and this finding generated a lot of controversy. Those results were based on eight questions used to gauge economic enlightenment. Most of those eight questions specifically challenged leftist positions and/or reassured conservative and/or libertarian positions, while none had a clear slant against conservatives and/or libertarians. In a new survey, conducted in December 2010, we supplemented those eight questions with another nine new questions, all specifically challenging conservative and/or libertarian positions (and often reassuring leftist positions). Our new survey reinforces our finding that for people inclined to take such a survey, basic economic enlightenment is quite flat in relation to going to college. However, the new test consisting of all 17 questions yielded results that vitiated prior evidence of the left being worse. Now, all groups do poorly, with each group tending to do relatively poorly on the questions challenging its positions. Linked appendices provide all data and the survey instrument.