Occupations and Their Ideologies

Occupations are strongly sorted by ideology. Political scientist Adam Bonica has produced reliable and consistent estimates of ideological placement for a huge number of individuals, politicians, and organizations. As he writes here, he was especially struck by how extreme are the mean ideology scores for various occupations:

Although the ideological orientation of these industries is not much of a surprise, the extent to which these industries favor the extreme, rather than moderate, wings of each party far surpassed my expectations. Some of the distributions more closely resemble what I would expect from occupations that were subject to the spoils system–for instance, US postmasters prior to the Pendleton Act–than major contemporary industries with no official partisan ties.

In Bonica's AJPS article, he makes a similar observation:

In some industries, ideological sorting easily exceeds the levels of sorting observed along geographic or economic lines.

Ideological Ranking of Occupations and Industries, by Adam Bonica
Workplace Ideology: Selected Firms and Institutions (2004-2008), by Adam Bonica

Left-wing occupations are farther to the left than right-wing occupations are to the right

An interesting wrinkle in this data is that the left-leaning occupations are more left-leaning than the right-leaning occupations are right-leaning. Of the left-wing occupations and organizations, there are many firmly below -1, but for the right-wing occupations there are very few above 1. Indeed, even iconic representatives of evil right-wing military-industrial capital — such as Boeing or Exxon Mobil — are essentially centrist, at least with respect to their staffing.

You can see this again when he places industries into three buckets: Left, Right, and Divided. In the graphs below, it's easy to eyeball that the peak of the left-wing distributions are further to the left than the peak of the right-wing distributions are to the right.

Industries aligned with the Left
Industries Aligned with the Left (2008)
Industries Aligned with the Right (2008)
Ideologically Divided Industries (2008)

Social performance for status vs. mundane thing manipulation?

What are the underlying variables that explain how occupations sort into these three baskets? Just speculating, the left-wing occupations seem to be mostly about social performance and they garner high status. The right-wing occupations are mostly about mundane things and garner zero or negative status. And the divided occupations are those that call for ambiguous combinations of these things (person-facing but socially unimpressive).

And because some of those graphs are a bit old (2008), here is some confirmation that the basic patterns have not changed, at least as late as 2012.

Mapping the Ideological Marketplace (Bonica 2014)

17 comments on “Occupations and Their Ideologies”

  1. Although they don't appear in the graphics, some professions (like scientists and computer programmers) who have a strong reputations of being professions for social outcasts are also strongly left-wing; I suspect that there is simply a question of "extraordinary" (left-wing) versus "mundane" (right-wing), independently of the work being with people or with things.

    1. I've a PhD in education and have been in academia 40 years. The professors and grad students I've known and worked with (mostly humanities and social sciences) have been no more compassionate, creative, independent, or "excellent" than the farmers, nurses, and others in my life. Your observation does affirm the one difference I have noticed: academics, more than others, tend toward smugness. I've seen it only in a few fundamentalist preachers and young soldiers convinced their branch / division / unit is superior to every other, but as a profession, academics take the trophy. Strange bedfellows, but true.

  2. Most scientists and computer janitors do mundane grunt work of little value. Their left wing ideology isn't a mark of extraordinaryness, but of their tendency to be alienating misfits with poor social development.

  3. I used to work for National Journal until 2010 or so. I looked into the topic with a crude theory:

    People choose careers (and politics) by character, and some risk-manager characters prefer clear & predictable results (plus the GOP), while other risk-creators favor things that cannot be measured (progressivism).

    I did some measurements via campaign donations and a few surveys, with a few suggestive results: Psychologists/psychiatrists were the most far-left group I could find.

    I found some modest evidence that dentists and accountants are 'right wing,' as are plumbers. Of course, journalists tend to the left, as do professors.

    This led to a larger theory of our nation’s political divide in a 'diversity economy' where many big and small companies create products and services for many, many niches. In effect, the diversity ideology is an emergent self-serving belief system for professionals who need to protect their niche-marketing.

    That diversity economy helped create Trump — who is crystallizing and intensifying the break between risk-managers (parents, lower-IQ people, builders, workers in dangerous jobs) and risk-creators (high-IQ, post-grads, young, or wealthy people)

  4. Journalists are frequently accused of being left wing. In my experience (30 + years) as a journalist and a journalism manager, it is usually more complicated than a simple binary. As citizens, journalists may tend to be progressive about some things, conservative about others. They may tend toward social liberalism on gay rights, abortion, race etc., but more conservative about the economy, national defense, individual rights. It's the second question in these studies that is never asked or answered: "Do your politics affect your ability to do a balanced job as a journalist?"

    1. Mr. Dvorkin -
      Yes. It does. Obviously. Blatantly.

      Case in point: NYT defending their hiring their new anti-white male editor, despite years of evidence of bigotry and her advocacy of genocide.

      Fish don't recognize the water they're swimming in. Leftists don't recognize the inherent biases they share.

    2. And yet, if we measure political contributions, party registration, and their expressed support for candidates, over 90% of journalists fall left of the centerline.

      From the perspective of of someone further left, they may be "mixed" - just as the political right views the most moderate wing of the Republicans as "Democrat-Light" or "Republican In Name Only".

      As the old joke goes, anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, while anyone driving faster is a maniac.

      But measured by the metrics given, journalism *is* a hyper-left-wing profession. And yes, I do believe that, as a group, journalists are uninterested, and quite possibly incapable, of doing a "balanced job" on any story with even the faintest political significance.

  5. "the distributions more closely resemble what I would expect from occupations that were subject to the spoils system"

    That's because they are.

  6. It would be interesting to ask the left-leaning folks which leftist policy or program they believe will someday, somehow, somewhere actually help someone; and why they feel it will do so.

  7. There are two factors here: self-selection and its mirror anti-selection, along with acceptance and rejection. People of a certain bent tend to flock together (selection) and they tend to look for those with similar world views to recruit (acceptance). And of course the contrary case is alive and well.

    Corporate culture is important. On the meta-level, it is the very thing we see in the "Deep State" trying to eject Donald Trump.

  8. I'm a musician and I'm a paleo-conservative. I am composer/arranger, and I sing and play instruments. There are many closet conservatives in the entertainment industry. Conservatives. in general, are not as vocal about their politics, so the lefties in the business make the most noise.

  9. Interesting but part of the problem is because the far-right are actually unemployed or difficult to survey. On the other hand, there's a lot to be said about the bourgeoise groupthinking of the American left

  10. Looking at the array of jobs dominated by the Left and those dominated by the Right, one thing strikes me: The Left-dominated jobs are largely controlled by gatekeepers, who demand a lot of signaling (certain degrees from certain universities, certain personal attributes unrelated to the job) while the Right-dominated jobs seem devoid of gatekeepers. Any one can be a plumber or insurance-industry executive, for instance.
    I wonder what the media's median political view would be without gatekeepers?
    Also, Hollywood and the press were far more open to ideological diversity in the 1960s, and before, than those industries were afterwards. Why did the gatekeepers arise in that period? What prompted them? And who organized them to be so similar in their goals and behavior?

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