Does Graduate School Make People Statist?


(click to enlarge)

The above info-graphic comes from an exit poll conducted on Election Night 2012. It shows a fascinating trend in voting behavior broken down by education level. As you can see, voters without a college education favored President Obama over Romney 52.4% to 46%. Among voters with some college education, the vote was split nearly 50/50. Voters who had earned a college degree favored Romney by the same margin as those without a college education favored Obama. It would seem that as voters advance through post-secondary education, they become more likely to vote Republican.

But look on. Voters who remained in school after earning an undergraduate degree broke sharply in favor of Obama. Their support for the incumbent president was even more pronounced than that among voters with no college education.

What happened? What could account for such a dramatic reversal in what otherwise appears to be a trend indicating post-secondary education fosters Republican tendencies? You tell me.

My wife was a graduate student, studying counseling psychology at a university in the Midwest. Leftist ideology was an article of faith among the faculty and student cohort alike. Our status as Republican-voting Christian conservatives was regarded with a mixture of revulsion and morbid curiosity. I never thought to pick anyone’s brain about why they voted the way they did. But if I were forced to speculate in hindsight, I would say the university environment fosters the sense that any social problem can be micromanaged by a cadre of elite geniuses.

Submit before our well-read genius.

Submit before our well-read genius.

Getting into graduate school proves significantly more difficult than getting into an undergraduate program. Merely being accepted serves as a declaration of academic achievement, of standing out from and (dare we say) above the crowd. Yet that distinction quickly fades as one becomes oriented to the new normal, a cohort of fellow students who are just as special, establishing excellence as the bare minimum level of acceptable performance.

Does it go to graduate students’ heads? When mere excellence becomes a failing grade, does that foster an air of imperial elitism, the sense that one knows better than everyone else how the world ought to be run? Perhaps.

Another possibility is that life as a perpetual student shields people from the experiences which convey how the economy actually works. Imagine going to school for 22 years, living first off Mom and Dad and then on student loans, never really working or bearing the full burden of your own existence. That could have a profound effect upon one’s sense of life, no?

What say you? What explains last year’s exit poll numbers? Or is the apparent correlation not indicative of causation?