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Education and Political Tolerance Testing the Effects of Cognitive Sophistication and Target Group Affect Lawrence Bobo and Fredrick C. Licari Objective • To identify more precisely the underlying traits that higher levels of education are frequently assumed to impart • To perform a stringent test of the educationtolerance relationship that takes into account feelings of approval or disapproval of the target group whose rights are in question The Case for Education • Nunn and colleagues: Increasing years of education were part of a learning process that enhanced cognitive skills, cultural knowledge, and cognitive flexibility. • McClosky (1964): Education played a large part in the finding that his sample of “political influentials” was more supportive of democratic ideology than the “mass electorate.” • Lawrence (1976): The highly educated were more likely to apply general norms of tolerance to groups they disliked. The Case against Education • Jackman (1973): Poorly educated respondents were likely than the highly educated to agree with simple, strongly worded questions that posed only one side of an issue. • Sullivan et al. (1979): the relationship between education and tolerance is largely artifactual. • Stouffer (1955): The highly educated were more favorably disposed toward left-learning groups than the poorly educated. Hypothesis • First hypothesis: cognitive sophistication largely mediates the relationship between education and tolerance. • Second hypothesis: Education enhances tolerance even when the target group is disapproved or disliked. The Analysis Process • To develop a scale of political tolerance • To test the cognitive sophistication hypothesis in a multiple regression framework, using a Civil Liberties scale that involves five separate groups spanning the political spectrum • To test for education and cognitive sophistication effects on tolerance of four separate target groups among those respondents holding explicitly negative attitudes toward the target group Data and Measures • The 1984 General Social Survey • The number of completed cases: 1,473 (a response rate of 78.6%) • Control variables: family income, age, gender, race, religious denomination, region of the country, urbanicity, psychological insecurity, and political ideology • Cognitive sophistication measure: the number of correct answers to a ten-word vocabulary test Control variables • We treat religious denomination as three dummy variables, with the nonreligious as the omitted category and Jews, Catholics, and Protestants each identified in separate dummy variables. • Psychological insecurity is measured with a three-item scale concerned with level of faith or trust in people. • Political ideology is measured by respondent’s selfplacement on a seven-point scale running from extremely liberal at one end, through middle of the road, to extremely conservative at the opposite end. Cognitive sophistication measure Three Fundamental Speak Civil Liberties Issues related to Freedom Teach of Expression Book Atheist Members of Five Nonconformist Groups Communist Racist Militarist Homosexual Atheist speak Communist speak Racist speak Militarist speak Homosexual speak Atheist teach Communist teach Racist teach Militarist teach Homosexual teach Atheist book Communist book Racist book Militarist book Homosexual book • Dichotomous responses: “favor(1)” or “not favor(0)” “allow(1)” or “not allow(0)” “fired(1)” or “not fired(0)” A Question • Is tolerance a unidimensional construct that includes groups of left-and right-wing ideology and several types of acts or forms of expression? An Answer • There is a strong general tolerance dimension that includes groups from the left and right ends of the political spectrum. Findings • There is a general tolerance dimension that embraces groups from both ends of the political spectrum. • Education is strongly related to tolerance, even for a wide array of groups and even among those respondents explicitly opposed to the target group. • Cognitive sophistication accounts for a substantial fraction of the effect of education on tolerance. Why is This Study Important? • To focus on both types of groups (left- and right wing target groups) • To underestimate tolerance of nonconformist but less extreme groups and the connection of education to the latter • To concern attitudes toward the expression of particular points of view, but not attitudes toward broad social categories (gender, race, and class) Extreme Groups • The Ku Klux Klan • The Black Panthers • The Symbionese Liberation Army • They are not advocates of nonconformist viewpoints because they have histories of violence and criminal activity.