According to this 4-year-old poll (maybe it’s time for a new one), the left outnumber the right about 1.6-to-1 (assuming we count libertarians as right-leaning, and split the independents and “other” down the middle). What is it about the SDMB that attracts the left? Is it its affiliation with the Chicago Reader (seems unlikely)? We’re not really a special interest board, the only thing we really have in common (re General Questions and The Straight Dope column itself) is a pursuit of the truth, which would not appear to appeal to one side over the other.
In all seriousness, no pitting intended, there seems to be a direct correlation between free, open and intelligent discussion and political leaning. I have never found a board where the discussion was sincere, intelligent and accommodating that had obvious right-leaning participants. The boards on which a rightward leaning is evident seem more concerned with protecting certain ideas against all challenges than discussing them. Which fits my overall perception: conservatives have been in a highly defensive/protective mode for the last two decades.
Because reality has a tendency to conform to the left more than the right.
At this time, in America.
It appears to me that the right is less connected to reality than is the left.
There are, of course, outliers to any statistical group, but on average it appears that the left at this time is more sane than the right.
And sanity, rationality, knowledge - those qualities are our collective raison d’être, are they not?
So, it is only logical, that this board would lean to the left somewhat.
But only from the point of view of an American.
To the rest of the world, we are, politically speaking, remarkably conservative even though our nonconservative movies, videos and music pervade the entire world. We apparently are the only developed country that doesn’t have universal health care. We move quickly and slowly at the same time through time which is rather odd when you consider the ramifications. We are one of the youngest countries and yet we act as if we are ancient. We proclaim our youthfulness and then declaim the rites of youth. We are torn and yet wish to be together. We are a strange people. Maybe we, as a nation, can become something less conflicted. I do hope so.
Because Democrats are lousy fighters. We outnumber ignorance 8 to 1 and still can’t wipe it out.
Well, on that particular count, those of us Old-Timers who were first followers of the Straight Dope print column would have been regular readers of “Alternative Weeklies” like the Reader or the Washington/Baltimore City Paper, and as an audience would lean liberal (by USAmerican standards) so you could say that in its genesis the Straight Dope community was heavily seeded in that direction.
All the conservative people are too busy posting crazy content in the comments sections of online news media.
My guess is that this board leans in a cerebral direction. I don’t think we’re as smart as we think we are, but you do have to have some gray matter to find this place interesting. Studies have found that liberal leanings are positively correlated with educational attainment. And liberal folk tend to be Democrats.
You will also see other groups disproportionately represented here. Like atheists and agnostics, sexual minorities, and a lot of single-and-childless folk. Educational attainment may be an explanation, but there may be a primacy effect at work. That is to say, the board just happened to start off with a lot of progressive people, and their postings made the board attractive to even more progressive people–thereby perpetuating a demographic profile that had originated more or less randomly.
Yeah… what Monstro sed.
All message boards draw a certain demographic. We are fortunate that this one, ours, is more cerebral than others. It does not take more than five minutes of research on Google to determine that my statement is based upon factual evidence.
Reality leans Left.
Putting all the “reality is left-leaning” stuff aside ( I’m pretty left-leaning, but I think you can make “reality” lean anyway you want - perception is everything ), I think that actually has a fair bit to do with laying the seeds of the current SDMB.
It’s wasn’t just the Chicago Reader per se - the original column was syndicated and largely distributed to small, independent newspapers ( in my area the old incarnation of the East Bay Express ). These papers tended to be largely urban and left-leaning. So many of the older inhabitants of this message board were drawn in from those roots and tended to veer leftwards in general.
That said in the early days of this board it is my contention that it had a rather more even distribution of political beliefs. Still quite left-leaning, but with many more conservatives mostly of the moderate Republican stripe, with even a very few social conservatives ( very few ). Moreover then ( and IMHO still ) it had a larger-than-was-standard-in-American-society group of more or less libertarian posters, something I think was true of the internet generally once upon a time. But starting with the disputed election of Bush II in 2001 I think the board started to steadily polarize and in the charged political climate already outnumbered thinner-skinned/less patient conservatives started to jump ship and the board began skewing more left, which put more pressure on the remaining conservatives, etc…
So an originally somewhat left-leaning population just evolved into a much more left-leaning population through self-selection. I’m sure papers have been written on such things :).
There are four main reasons. First, this board originated to discuss a column that mostly runs in alternate weekly newspapers. The readership of such papers leans strongly liberal, so that gives us a solid nucleus of liberal posters.
Second, there’s also a fairly strong international representation, here, and the other livable parts of the world tend pretty far to the left of the American norm.
Third, many in the Republican party have declared science to be their enemy, and that turns off most of the kinds of folks who hang out here.
And fourth, once a partisan lean has been established in a community, in any direction and for any reason, it tends to be self-reinforcing, as new members who share that lean feel more at home and are more likely to stick around, and vice versa for new members with a different lean.
Monstro might have put a smile about his news website comment but he is spot on.
I think message boards in general are an alternative universe. Unless the site is about an expensive hobby (watch collecting, gun collecting, etc.) they are generally liberal. The other exception is conspiracy theories.
Ah, I forgot to mention this, which I agree is also a factor.
Lean Democrat? Fuck them, I just think the Republicans are bullies and liars and I’d like to spit in their eye.
It’s hard to disagree with any of these reasons. The third point makes me particularly sad. To hell with religions that treat any so-called holy book as a science text.
Take your American glasses off for a minute, and realize that there are a lot of international posters here from countries whose “conservative” side is more like the American Democrats. That’s one thing.
Are you sure? I think liberals like to think that is true, but I think it’s pretty much the same at the college level, although slightly more Republicans, and then diverges a bit more towards Democrats at the post-graduate level. But… you also find a lot more Democrats than Republicans in the “did not finish high school” category, so it’s not quite that simple.
I’m going from memory here, so I could be wrong. I spent a few minutes googling and was shocked that there wasn’t any data that popped right up. Any body got the goods on that?
This is a big part of it. Look at how capital-L Libertarians outnumber Republicans 3-to-1 in that poll. The Republican Party has not, in recent times, put “fighting ignorance” high on its list of priorities. In fact, it has very significant factions that actively fight to promote ignorance. [Cite] The Libertarian Party is a lot more attractive to right-leaning people who also agree with the goal of fighting ignorance.
Conservatives are not welcomed here.
If we had any actual Republicans here, they might suggest something like this:
Republicans all have full-time jobs or families, that keep them too busy for spending all their time posting on an internet message board.
For the record, I don’t think this is all that valid, but I do sometimes wonder if there are certain demographics of people who are underrepresented here because their lifestyles preclude spending much time online.
Actually, I think Chronos did a pretty good job of summarizing the reasons.
Along with the fourth, I’ll note another way that the board’s left-leaningness tends to self-perpetuate: Because we have so many left-leaning posters, anyone who’s spent a lot of time here has been exposed to a lot of decent, well-thought-out defenses of Democratic/liberal positions and critiques and ridicule of Republican/conservative ones; and not nearly so much the other way around. So that merely reading the boards could make someone who isn’t already committed to one viewpoint lean increasingly toward the Democratic point of view.
On the factor 5 personality test, openness to experience is positively correlated to liberalism. The kinds of people drawn to this board are probably high(er) on openness to experience.
Plus a study of British political thought found that moderate liberals had the highest integrative complexity in their thinking. People drawn to boards like this are probably higher in integrative complexity since people here learn from each other and come to share and develop ideas rather than reinforce our existing beliefs and ideas.
So there are a couple of examples why. What I don’t get is why the bias is so strong in academia and science. I think only about 5-10% of scientists are conservative.