Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Results: Trade, Immigration, the Environment

When it came to respondent’s policy preferences, I found no difference between the views of those with the 10 highest information scores and those with the ten lowest. I performed a 2-tail t-test on the aggregate globalization score of the two groups, with an alpha of .05 and t critical between 2.093 and -2.093. The result was t=. 59, well within the critical region, which led me to not reject the null hypothesis that there was no statistically significant difference between the globalization scores of the highest and lowest scoring participants. I repeated the t test for each group; money, security, people and energy/environment and the results are on the chart below:

Category------- T score---------T Critical------Accept/Reject Null?
Money---------------.88------2.093 and -2.093---Accept
Security------------.72------2.093 and -2.093---Accept
Energy/Environment--.70------2.093 and -2.093---Accept
People--------------.10------2.093 and -2.093---Accept

As you can see, the null, or hypothesis of no difference, was not rejected for any category. Given this information the only logical conclusion is that there was no significant statistical difference between the policy choices of the most well informed and least well informed.

When it came to testing correlations the results were similar. Overall, the correlation between having a higher informed score and being more supportive of all of the four flows, or even just one of the four flows, was very low.

Money............... .06
Security............ .25
People.............. -.03

The overall correlation was just .16, which is considered, at best, a very weak correlation.

Interpreting the Results: Trade and Immigration

The evidence does not seem to support Caplan or Keeter and Carprini’s assertion that there is consistently a difference in the views of informed and uninformed voters. My results seem to suggest that there is a fairly even dispersion of opinion regarding globalization and foreign policy between the informed and uninformed.
That is not to say that my results are necessarily “right” whereas the results from other researchers are necessarily “wrong”. Most of the surveys referenced in the literature focused a wide variety of questions, whereas my survey had specifically tailored questions about globalization and foreign policy. Also, I set my survey up to ‘look like an election’ with multiple-choice questions consisting of clear policy alternatives. Keeter and Carprini and Scott Althaus based their research on Roper phone polls that had often allowed the participant to give feedback. It is difficult to tell whether or not my results would have been different if I had led my participants in discussion rather than simply asking them to fill out a questionnaire.
My test may also be different from the one used by Bryan Caplan, because he based his research on the SAE survey, which asked respondents more theoretical questions. For example, the SAE asked respondents how much a given situation impacted economic growth, such as “There are too many immigrants” (Caplan 59), whereas my test put a respondent in the shoes of a voter, asking them to chose between one candidate who was supportive of and another candidate who was hostile to immigration. Here is an example of one of three questions that I used to gauge opinions on the flow of people:

Bill Gates recently appeared before congress and argued that we need to increase the number of high skilled workers we allow in the country, where do the candidates stand on this issue.

Candidate A. I’m against it. I worry that those immigrants will be taking jobs away from hard working Americans. We need to educate our own people instead of bringing in foreigners.

Candidate B. I believe we should allow more highly skilled workers in this country. We should welcome talented people because they are what make America great.

Perhaps low information respondents to SAE were looking at the question theoretically, believing that it sounds reasonable that immigrants harm economic growth, but did not feel that my example of an anti-immigration candidate was particularly appealing. Keeter and Carprini remind us that voters after use heuristics to determine which candidate will get their vote, so perhaps my imaginary candidate reminded respondents of a candidate that they did not vote for in the past. In any case, it must be noted that 60% of respondents chose answer b and that pro immigration answers were evenly split between low and high information voters.

There are also demographic factors to consider. By testing college students, I assured that my participants were probably smarter and better educated than the population at large. For example, although the Census Bureau reports that just 7.4% of Americans 25 and over have an associate’s degree (U.S. Census Bureau ), 40% of the participants in my sample already had an associates degree and presumably the majority would have a 4 year degree within a 2 or 3 years. This again makes my sample unique, because only about 17% of the entire population 25 and over has a bachelor’s degree (U.S. Census Bureau ). But, as I demonstrated in section 1, previous research indicates that the information effect should exist independent of the level of formal education. Also, women outnumbered men in my survey nearly 2 to 1, and Caplan suggested that women often come to different conclusions than men when it comes to policy preferences. But Caplan suggests that women are less likely to support globalization, but, again, I detected no correlation between gender and globalization scores.

The policy preference scores were somewhat like the civics question scores; there were example of individuals who attained a very low globalization score but the aggregate score was actually very solid. Out of 10 possible “4-flows” points, the low score was 3.5, indicating something akin to an isolationist position on most issues. But the mean was 6.4 out of 10 overall and when the questions are reduced to only issues related to trade and immigration the mean is 4.23 out of a possible 6 or a roughly 71% approval for the candidate with pro globalization views. Overall, the responses to questions about trade and immigration paint a picture of an American public that is not prepared to give into more isolationist impulses, even in light of the current economic downturn.

Interpreting the Results: The Flow of Security

Respondents were generally receptive to trade and economic globalization but they were far more reticent about the flow of security. I built my security questions around a hypothetical humanitarian intervention in the fictional African country of Zoombia. The Zoombia scenario was a rough amalgamation of various humanitarian crises that the international community has faced since the end of the Long War. There was a leader who refused to leave after loosing an election, as Manuel Noriega had done in Panama and as Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe. There was ethic cleansing, as had happened in the Balkans, Rwanda and Sudan. And there was mass starvation, as had occurred in North Korea and Zimbabwe. Overall respondents were unlikely to support a military intervention to topple the leader Zoombia, even when casualties were guaranteed to be low but when the U.N. Security Council authorized action the answers changed.

Question 13 read:
Zoombia is a small country in Africa. Their leader, General Tyler, declared himself Dictator for life after he lost an election several years ago. Since that time the economy of Zoombia has deteriorated and last year a famine killed 600,000 people. Reports have recently started coming in the General Tyler has blamed an ethnic minority for the famine and has unleashed his army on the countryside to murder every man, woman and child who claims membership in the minority. The CIA estimates that 1 million people could be killed in the next few weeks. General Tyler has resisted all diplomatic overtures and the U.S. does not even recognize his government. The U.N. Security council is deadlocked and is not expected to authorize military action. How should the U.S. react?

A. It’s a tragedy but none our business.

B. Sanctions and diplomatic pressure.

C. We should use air power to destroy the Zoombian army but not send ground forces.

D. We should invade, depose general Tyler and do what it takes to rebuild the country.

The most common answer to this question, with 13 responses, was b, signaling support for the U.S. to use sanctions and diplomatic pressure. 2 respondents answered c, in support of air strikes, 2 respondents supported a full on invasion of Zoombia and 1 felt that the situation was none of our business. Finally, two respondents gave no answer at all.

At first blush it may seem that a reluctance to invade another country is the logical outgrowth of the U.S. sustaining several thousand casualties in Iraq. But I followed up question 13 by asking respondents if they would change their answer if they knew that the U.S. would sustain fewer than ten casualties. Only 1 respondent changed their answer, and that person changed their mind from supporting airstrikes to supporting an invasion. With this information in mind it would be difficult to argue that respondents were only reluctant to support an invasion because of a fear casualties. Also, the original answer set provided a “Leviathan” option for airstrikes, which historically have resulted in very little risk to U.S. personnel, but only 10% of respondents supported airstrikes.

One factor that seemed to move people to support military action was U.N. approval. In question 16 I asked if the respondent’s answer would change if the U.N. approved the operation. This time 9 respondents stood opposed to any action, 4 supported airstrikes and 3 approved of a U.S. invasion with U.N. peacekeepers. Leaving out the two respondents who chose to give no answer, and including the two respondents who had supported an invasion from the beginning, U.N. approval seems to bring support for military action against Zoombia to 50/50, although those who support action do not agree on what type of action should be taken.

Setting aside hypothetical interventions for a moment, I also asked the respondents how they felt about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent occupation of Iraq. Question 21 was, “Do you believe the war in Iraq was mistake?” 65% of respondents answered yes. This is very close to the 63% of Americans who reported that they believed that Iraq was mistake (Silva) in a recent Gallup poll, so my sample was pretty representative of the views of all Americans with regard to the war in Iraq. One might assume that low support for the war in Iraq is connected to low support or interventions abroad, but I must point out that I was able to demonstrate no correlation between a higher security score and support for the war in Iraq. Also, Question 20 asked respondents what type of action they might support if Iran continues its nuclear program, the most common answer, with 11 responses, was to increase sanctions. No respondent chose answer ‘d’, which was military action.
On the subject of security, I also asked respondent what situation posed the greatest threat the American security in the 21st century. Question 22 read:

What do you think represents the greatest threat to American security in the 21st century?
a. China
b. Terrorism
c. Food shortages
d. Global Warming
e. Populist demands for Protectionism

There was no majority for any one answer, but the most common answer was ‘b’, terrorism, with 7 responses. Interestingly, the second most selected answer was China, with 6 responses. Food shortages had 1 response and two participants selected a more than one answer. No one chose global warming as the number one security threat for the 21st century.

The results of my survey seem to suggest that the new president should be weary about getting American troops involved in actions abroad without international legitimacy. This is a topic I will address at some length in section three, but for now it is sufficient to say that there is an extremely complex relationship between public opinion and military actions abroad and the results of my survey are not, from a historical prospective, all that unusual.

Interpreting the Results: The Environment
When it came to environmental issues respondents were divided between supported the U.S. singing a binding treat on carbon emissions but seemed slightly less enthusiastic when it came to a logical means of accomplishing that goal. Question 18 read:

Would you be willing to support the U.S. signing onto a binding treaty with other nations to cut carbon emissions?

a. Yes, if developing nations such as India and China have to play by the same rules we do.

b. Yes, we should set an example regardless of the actions of other nations.

c. No.

The most common answer was ‘b’, with 12 out of 20 respondents agreeing that the U.S. should sign a binding treaty to reduce C02 emissions regardless of the actions of other nations. Question 19 asked if the respondent would support a carbon tax, and only 11 respondents said that they did. This discrepancy in answers makes me wonder whether or not the respondents fully understood the issue of carbon reduction, because many solutions, including the Kyoto Protocol, would result in carbon being effectively “taxed” either directly or by being “capped”. The one respondent who supported a binding treaty to reduce carbon but did not support the taxing of carbon makes me wonder if answers to this question would have changed if the participants had been fully briefed on the issues before being given the survey.

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