Why is the SDMB so liberal?

Serious question- please refrain from “'cause we’re ignorance fighters” type answers, etc.

So in those McCain/Obama threads in this forum, right now its ridiculous, like 88/12 for Obama. Why is the Straight Dope, which I think most people would agree has a member base of above average intelligence, but is otherwise a random sampling of locations, ages, professions,and sex, why is it so liberal?
Conservatives, why do you think this is?
Liberals, why do you think this is?

Not to be too snarky, but when rightist dictators come to power, who is first against the wall? The Intelligentsia. There has always been a slightly anti-intellectual bias to conservatives.

  1. educated cross-section
  2. self-selected for intellectual curiosity
  3. NOT self-selected for income levels
  4. in a period where the right is widely discredited

just for starters.

Possibly because ignorance and conservatism go hand in hand? Not attempting to be damning of conservatives, but a lot of right wing opinion seems to stem from lack of exposure to alternative ways of thought or living, hence why cities tend to be more liberal than small towns.

To very roughly paraphrase something tomndeb posted recently:

1.) Newspaper column that started this message board was a mainstay of “alternative” newspapers, which usually has a more left-leaning readership.

2.) Moderate-sized international contingent, especially western and northern European and Canadian, which tends to skew a little leftwards of the U.S. generally.

3.) Increasing political polarization over the last several years has served to intensify political discourse. To the point where a what was a solidly majority leftist board to begin with, has become rather more so as some more conservative voices have felt marginalized and have opted to move on.

As always I’ll note, as I usually do when this topic comes up, that hardcore social conservatives and genuine Marxists have always been rather rare here ( there used to be a few vocal members, not so much now ). Meanwhile self-identifying libertarians seem to me to have always been just a bit over-represented relative to the general populace.

Because we’re smart enough to know that Obama is not a Muslim, a Weatherman, a non-native American, a Hollywood celebrity, a terrorist sympathizer, or a socialist.

Oh come on! Hard core left wing dictators have had similar policies. See here, for instance. Does this imply the left has similar anti-intellectual tendencies? I’d have thought anti-intellectualism has more to do with being a dictator rather than being left or right of centre.

I thought of this too, but is it really a factor? Is a large percentage of people here as a result of the print column? I would guess not, I think more people come across the site from internet sources. But that’s just a guess.

I think it has something to do with the newspaper column’s origins. The Straight Dope column originated in Chicago, which tends to lean Democratic, and was carried by alternative newspapers, which I think tend to have a liberal readership base. Once you have a base of people who think a certain way gathered in a spot, they tend to attract like-minded folks and repel people who don’t share their values/beliefs.
People who like Obama know they’re among friends here so have no problem talking about it. People who like McCain know there are several frequent posters here who think McCain is not only wrong but “evil”, so of course they won’t be as vocal about it if they care about fitting in here.

I also think the topics that are discussed in the column (and to a lesser extent here on the boards) are the kind of topics that would appeal to someone with an interest in topics like the arts, sociology, and other “social science”/“liberal arts” arenas, which tend to be liberal folks in general.
I also visit a website for medical students/physicians. Like here, the site is strongly moderated and the posters tend to be smarter than those you find on the average internet forum, but yet there are definitely more openly conservative people on that site than on here. Physicians in general, in my experience, tend to lean more conservative than a comparably intelligent group with PhDs in Medieval Studies.
It’s not an issue of intelligence, in my view - just the kind of personalities that certain topics of discussion tend to attract.

I’ve also noticed other boards, that have very intelligent members, but are geared to specific disciplines, that are generally conservative politically. Several other general discussion boards tend to be pretty 50-50. I guess I consider the SD to be one of the most general boards out there, with discussions of Math, Science, Literature, Art, Medicine, and Religion pretty evenly represented. Maybe some topics are more represented than others, but not so much that I would expect a 90-10 split!

I would personally guess that the internet itself leans left. You’re going to find more computers in urban homes than in rural, and urban areas tend to be more liberal. The internet is also home to younger people, who are generally more liberal than older.

The Straight Dope, as someone posted, is printed in an alternative newspaper that’s probably most popular in liberal cities.

Smarter people favor skepticism, making them generally less strongly religious or otherwise fanatical. Without strong religious views, it’s hard to maintain strong socially conservative values.

Conversation and friendly interaction, similarly, makes it hard to hold bigoted views in regards to homophobia. So you’re not going to find a lot of homophobics on a site with a thriving gay population, and most homophobics are, in modern time, conservatives.

Smarter republicans are more likely to consider themselves to be too busy to waste time chatting on the internet and debating with loonies.

I don’t think you should use the numbers in the voting thread as an indication of how liberal this board is. The Obama support has simply a lot to do with his personality and character on the one side and the Bush failures and McCain flailings on the other.

If you do a search of threads that have to do with topics such as “How many countries have you visited?” or “How many languages can you speak?”, you’ll see that a remarkably large number of Dopers have travelled extensively and have a fairly broad world-view. I don’t like the notion that intelligence has a lot to do with things, but I do believe that intellectual curiosity does.

I can only offer the example of my siblings and children: my brother and sister are certainly not dummies, but neither of them has ever ventured out of Alaska for more than a couple of weeks at a time in their 70+ years, and never beyond the North American coastline (Hawaii excepted). They are hard-core conservatives (and have varying degrees of racism), only lacking the religious zealotry to make them neocons. Ditto for their children, who are very bright people. They have had very little exposure to the world, and basically don’t wany any. My own children, by contrast, are lefties, and not because of any agenda I pushed while they were growing up. They have arrived at their present political leaning all on their own, after spending childhood traveling all over the world with me.

Because liberals have time to faff around on message boards while good hardworking conservatives are out working. :wink:

One factor not yet mentioned is that this board is extremely hostile to evangelical fundamentalists, who comprise a very significant portion of right-wing supporters in the US at the moment. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise, given the sort of response that a thread defending “intelligent design” will garner in GD. So, take your basic American demographic spread, pull out the evangelicals, and add a mix of non-Americans predominantly from western Europe, Canada, etc, and I don’t think you’d be far from the actual range of posters here.

For those who think the board is universally leftist, I suggest the following experiment - consider the likely course of the following GD threads:

  1. Evolution/Creation - near universal pile-on condemning one side
  2. Abortion - rancorous debate that stretches on for pages without any sign of consensus
  3. Gun control - a few American supporters of gun control, a few foreigners expressing mystification of American attitudes towards gun control, and a majority contingent arguing vehemently for the right to bear arms
  4. Economic ideology - viewpoints ranging from strong welfare state to laissez-faire market fundamentalism, with the dominant position being that governments suck at market intervention but that it’s sometimes a necessary evil. On balance probably trends centrist by American standards and somewhat right by international standards.

Outside of social conservative issues, I just don’t see a dramatic liberal bias unless you’re judging the international contingent by American standards. There’s plenty of support for right-wing views on other issues. As for Obama-McCain split, well, pull the 30-40% of Americans who are evangelicals out of the national polling and where do you think the numbers would stand? Add the sort of self-selection you’ll get in who’s going to respond to those polling threads - the McCain campaign has been pretty much an unmitigated disaster and who wants to associate themselves with that publicly - and the results don’t strike me as being very illuminating with regards to how the board leans.


I’m pretty sure you’re imagining that majority. IME, gun control threads here always boil down to a bunch of anti-gun people and a few very vocal pro-gun people.

On a much more basic level: birds of a feather and all that. When you find a forum that is sympathetic to your world view, you stick around.

On the other hand some of find that boring.

Well, those threads do tend to attract a predictable group of pro-gun posters, but I don’t recall any “bunches” of anti-gun Americans. Take this recent thread regarding a new assault weapon ban. Nearly every poster arguing for gun control indicates UK or Australia in their location field. The Americans posting to the thread are overwhelmingly opposed to increased gun control. Bad example, perhaps, given the objectively stupid cosmetic nature of the assault weapons ban? Okay, let’s look at this thread more generally about gun control, in which ExTank opens the topic with a moderate pro-gun position and the respondents discuss various ways in which that position isn’t sufficiently pro-gun. We find a wider array of opinions in Airman Door’s thread on the Heller decision, but the majority opinion in the thread is that the decision in favour of individual gun rights is both legally correct and preferable as public policy. There’s a couple of actual anti-gun Americans in that thread, but I don’t see any bunches of them.

If a majority of American board members are in favour of increased gun control, it’s a very silent majority, or I’m blind.

  1. I think there is a lot more political and social conservatives on this board than most realize; they just tend not to get into pointless squabbles about politics. I’m one of them-most of the time this board is cheap entertainment to me. I don’t want to spend half an hour crafting a masterful post with numerous cites to defend my opinions, when I’ll get piled on reflexively, whether my opinion has merit or not.

Rather just inkle in on another game of Family Feud, or comment about child rearing, etc. That’s why I rarely post about any thing having to do with construction, either.

  1. About birds of a feather and all that-I cannot stand being in an echo chamber, it makes me cringe when someone of the same political persuasion is a raving idiot. Plus it’s boring; I don’t need constant affirmation.

  2. Current political climate. Once we have 8 years of the Dems screwing things up, the conservatives will become more vocal.

  3. I think it is a fallacy to believe that a conservative cannot be an intellectual. Glad to see you all pat yourself on the back, though. You’re so smrt!*