Education, Intelligence, and Attitude Extremity
Michael D Makowsky
Clemson University - John E. Walker Department of Economics
Johnson Center for Political Economy, Troy University
December 13, 2012
Education and general intelligence both serve to inform opinions, but do they lead to greater attitude extremity? We use questions on economic policy, social issues, and environmental issues from the General Social Survey to test the impact of education and intelligence on attitude extremity, as measured by deviation from centrist or neutral positions. Using quantile regression modeling, we find that intelligence is a moderating force across the entire distribution in economic, social, and environmental policy beliefs. Completing high school strongly correlates to reduced extremity, particularly in the upper quantiles. College education increases attitude extremity in the lower tail of environmental beliefs. The relevance of the low extremity tail (lower quantiles) to potential swing-voters and the high extremity tail (upper quantiles) to a political party’s core are discussed.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 38
Keywords: Public Opinion, Voter Cognition, Attitude Extremity, Voter Education
JEL Classification: D72, D83
Date posted: September 12, 2012 ; Last revised: December 13, 2012
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