Survey Results II: Likes and Dislikes
Exploring the conservative-libertarian divide, and where I disagree with my readers
In my previous post, I analyzed the demographics and political views of my readership (UPDATE: See here for Part III). My survey also had you guys rate up to 246 things based on your likes and dislikes. Here’s a PDF showing everything in order, along with the number of people who responded for each item and the standard deviation.
You can find the full table at the bottom of the page. Here it is on an excel spreadsheet.
One concern I had was that there might be a selection effect based on when people answered the survey. Since some items appeared only after I sent out the reminder, if a different kind of reader responded from that point on, it could have distorted the results. There is no indication that this happened. On every measure I looked at, from politics to income to number of children, early takers and late takers of the survey were indistinguishable, meaning no differences reach significance at the p < .05 threshold. So while there are relatively smaller Ns for some of the responses, I have trust in them.
Here are your top 35 favorite things.
You are big believers in the American Founding Fathers, capitalism, and progress. Interestingly enough, you also don’t want your daughter to have an OnlyFans. So not too much progress! I genuinely love that, and I am in agreement with all of it.
It’s sort of embarrassing I’m only ranked 11 among my own readers. Your fourth favorite thing in the universe is apparently Thomas Sowell. I like him too, but does he really deserve to be that high, right before Adam Smith, who said many of the same things but 200 years earlier? Are you sure that you’re not practicing affirmative action in your hearts and souls, despite how supposedly anti-woke you are? If I were black, would you not rank me higher? Look into the mirror and ask yourselves the tough questions.
Here’s the second tier.
This is mostly a collection of conservative, libertarian, rationalist, and intellectual dark web figures. Matt Yglesias outperforms other liberals.
Further down the list, congratulations to General Robert E. Lee for just edging out Ezra Klein, US military aid to Ukraine, and David French. The rest of the world might be tearing down your statues, but my readers maintain some perspective.
The bottom of the list is a collection of liberal ideas, Democratic politicians, murderous dictators, and convicted sex criminals. I do think Harvey Weinstein was railroaded, by the way. He certainly doesn’t deserve to be below Critical Race Theory.
Here are the top 30 things on which my readers most disagree, as measured in standard deviations.
I love that God and dinosaurs are numbers one and two. Most of these things seem like they reflect a conservative-libertarian divide, which is the major split between my readers. But really, how could anyone not want to bring back dinosaurs? If you calculate by ideology, approval for bringing back dinosaurs is 3.7 for libertarians and state capacity libertarians, 3.1 for neo-reactionaries, 2.7 for classical liberals, 2.5 for conservatives and national conservatives, and 2.4 for moderate Republicans. Eating bugs, lab-grown meat, abortion, a free market in human organs, embryo selection, these are the hot button issues among my readership. It’s also interesting to note that there is more disagreement about words and concepts than people, as not a single individual made the list above.
Below are the 35 things on which I disagree with you the most.
This is a reminder that even those who are my readers are way more “normie” than I feel comfortable with.
First of all, you call yourselves libertarians? You don’t even believe in freedom of association! The idea that men trying to get sex from women is the business of the state is relatively recent, as judges didn’t start ruling that sexual harassment violated the Civil Rights Act until the late 1970s.
I’m an absolutist on this question. The right response to an employer mistreating you should be the same as the response to a friend or lover mistreating you: find someone else. Freedom of association strikes me as more important than freedom of speech, whether from a utilitarian or deontological perspective. I believe that preventing someone from expressing an opinion is much less of an infringement on their liberty than making them spend much of their life in the company of someone they don’t want to be around. I hate that we’ve normalized the opposite view.
I don’t believe allowing freedom of association would lead to women prostituting themselves as the norm. I’m much more worried about the slippery slope in the other direction, where the government micromanages romance, dating, and humor, which is the regime we currently live under. It’s difficult to imagine a ban on quid pro quo sexual harassment that did not run into gray areas, and then you’re already in the territory of government regulating when and how men can make passes at women.
I’m also more anti-crime than my readers, favoring the death penalty, shooting fleeing felons, and mass incarceration. But also more pro-freedom in terms of plastic surgery, transhumanism, and a free market in human organs. Sorry, normies, I’ll never understand you. Most of you believe that someone who rapes and murders a child should be treated humanely at taxpayer expense until natural death, but the government should step in and prevent an innocent person dying from organ failure from engaging in a voluntary market transaction to save his own life.
When I’ve debated others on the death penalty, the first thing people bring up is usually the possibility of wrongful convictions. I always point out that’s a problem with life in prison too. Yes, you can go back and undo the damage of a life sentence in theory, but you might not! If the only thing you care about is reducing false positives and not punishing innocent people, you can’t have a criminal justice system at all. Plus, I believe that in a society that was as strict as I wanted it to be, there would out of necessity be few wrongful convictions because there would be so little crime. I don’t think the worry about false convictions drives most of the opposition to the death penalty anyway. People just dislike it for aesthetic reasons, which is the same reason I’m so favorable towards it. Part of me believes that we’ve gotten too soft and weak, and executing convicted criminals seems to be the best way to express what should be a societal consensus that not all human life is valuable, which is sixth place among things I disagree with you on.
I gave everyone I’m friends with a 5, and if my ratings seem too generous in some places it should be seen as reflecting more than just my attitudes towards individuals’ political views. I’m surprised by the low rating for Charles Koch, who I’ve never met but has given me money indirectly. I’d give Koch a 5 even if he didn’t, as I basically agree with him on everything except criminal justice reform, and think he’s had a very positive impact on humanity. Given the conservative and libertarian leanings of my readership, I find his low rating sort of puzzling.
Interestingly, I’m much more friendly to most liberal media outlets than my readers, giving 4s to the NYT and Washington Post. My view is if your publication is worth reading, you get a decent rating even if I disagree with your politics. The New York Times provides some service to the world and benefit to my life, in a way other liberal things like LGBT activism and Nancy Pelosi do not.
The person I was more negative towards than any of you was Michael Lind. In general, I reserved 1s for the really evil, the Hitlers and Stalins. People like Pelosi and Biden got 2s, as it felt wrong to group them in with the worst mass murderers in history, though I did put Fauci there. I also make a special exception for intellectuals who particularly bother me, and Michael Lind is one of them (see here for previous tweets). If I had asked about Bruno Maçães (tweets) or Peter Turchin (tweets), they would’ve also gotten the lowest rating. Now that I think about it, these individuals appear to have three things in common:
Pretentious writing styles that cover up a lack of substance. This stylistic point is important. In Turchin’s case, stupid, stupid, stupid graphs create the same reaction in me.
A class based view of politics and concern with economic inequality.
Anti-woke or neutral towards woke, meaning that they’re not just normal liberals, which would make me dislike them less, probably because liberals are too distant from me to have extreme feelings about.
Of course, in my heart, I know Kim Jung Un is worse than Michael Lind. But Lind annoys me much more.
I also did a principal component analysis in Stata. For missing data, I just imputed the average for each item. There is one factor that is significantly more important than all others, explaining about 16% of the variation.
This seems to reflect a split between populists/nationalists and liberals. On one side are those who support Tucker, Trump, Orban, DeSantis, Pat Buchanan, and JD Vance, while the other side likes women’s suffrage, believing in climate change, adults undergoing gender transitions, Noah Smith, third world immigration, gun control, Zelensky, aid to Ukraine, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, LGBT, CRT, Fauci, and Democratic politicians.
The second factor, explaining 7% of the variation, is an optimistic libertarian versus misanthropic socialist divide. One side likes GMU economists, Thiel, Megan McArdle, capitalism, rationalism, believing the world is getting better, and Adam Smith, while the other has relatively more respect for Bernie Sanders, social democracy, believing the world is overpopulated, Stalin, and Fidel Castro. I honestly think this might be an artifact of the data, because it has the most popular things on one side and the least popular on the other. It may simply reflect the divide between people who give a wide range of ratings, and those who compress everything, which wouldn’t imply that many people are pro-Castro.
By the way, someone asked on Twitter whether I was taking the summer off and just doing TV analysis. I see how it can look that way, but I’m actually working on something very exciting that you will find out about in due time. I should be finished with it and back to Substack writing by next month. For now, check out the Salem Center/CSPI forecasting tournament, which just launched on Sunday.
The full list of likes and dislikes is below.
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Thomas Sowell wrote a lot about culture and group differences, including a book proposing intriguing theory of the origin of Black culture in America. This is probably his most lasting scholarly contribution. Prior to the CRT craze, I sometimes wondered why was he so focused on this topic that was not at all central to the discussion for long periods. Sowell also wrote a very good book about late-talking children. I once came across Pinker marveling at the breadth of topics Sowell covered. Finally, like George Washington, Sowell said few things that are entirely unpalatable to your readers. This, too, helped push his score up.
Pleasantly surprised to see you agreeing with me on animal suffering being bad, eating insects depending on animal suffering. Nice that other conservative/libertarian people agree with this. I guess since you are autistic and rationalist-adjacent it shouldn't be *too* surprising.