Social Networks and Bubbles

538 has a thought provoking post that is rather badly unsupported by data (the way thought provokers should be) that could be really horribly (mis)interpreted.

The bottom line from the data is not all that new:  the predictor for Clinton and Trump support are “college” vs. “church.”  “Church” implies support for Trump while “college” does not.  This, unfortunately, has the potential to feed the unfortunate stereotype for both:  the church goers will rant about liberal indoctrination in colleges and the college types will rant about churches being bastions of ignorance.  It sets up a false narrative that church and college are somehow mutually exclusive.  Their table actually does illustrate how politics is a function of church attendance/college while holding the other constant, but it is tilted in a way that is a bit hard to follow easily.  If I were setting up the graph, I’d want to emphasize the following relationship:

Education Level Religion Gap
No College 29%
Some College 38%
College Degree 40%

In other words, the more educated someone gets, the greater the gap between people who don’t go to church and those who attend church regularly.  Interacted with educated, the gap widens, not narrow.  If people support Trump because they are “undereducated,” more education should narrow the gap.  This is actually a powerful support for the Theory #3, that “education” and “churches” are building separate bubbles.

This should not come as surprise for those examining the relationship between formation of ideology and social interactions:  a well-known, but never actually published paper by Danielle Shani, originally presented at Midwest Political Science Association meeting 2006 pointed out that more educated conservatives are more (consistently) conservative than the less conservative, contra the usual belief that more education is correlated with liberalness.  (Unfortunately, MPSA archives seem inaccessible to public these days)   In the end, knowing “liberal” and “conservative” is not so much a function of “knowledge” as much as signalling of which camp one belongs to, to those whom one interacts with:  one can be a subscriber to “evolutionism” while being a complete ignoramus of the biology, while reasonably well-informed creationists don’t have problems being engineers and doctors.  Of course, the latter would not be able to function as credible evolutionary biologists, but there are only so many of them.

I think, as a society, we need to talk, beyond our bubbles.  Throwing epithets at godless liberals and ignorant believers can only further the divide without enlightenment.


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