The other day, I was reading this Slashdot article about a study personally commissioned by Dilbert author, Scott Adams, to survey 500 economists about the economic policies of McCain and Obama. The results of the study are somewhat interesting; the most interesting part being how honestly Adams dealt with the inherent bias in such studies.
Even more interesting to me were two particularly perceptive comments left on Slashdot. While I have not verified that their central theses are correct, I highly suspect that they are.
Education tends to lead people to liberalism, especially at colleges comprised of a more diverse student body beyond the local community or beyond state lines.
This is why there is a corrosive undercurrent of anti-educationism occasionally cropping up in conservative dialog. It is pretty much a cliche, the small town teenager goes off to college somewhere and the parents are horrified to see him come home with more liberal attitudes. People in the community see the neighbor's kid come back from college with more liberal attitudes. Conservative parents in the community start developing an attitude against sending their kids college, or at least to keep them in the local community college.
If you look at liberalism vs conservatism, there is exactly one overriding determining factor. The population of urban and suburban areas are liberal even in the Reddest of states, and in rural areas people are conservative even in the Bluest of states. Urban and suburban areas in Red of states vote Democrat, rural areas in Blue states vote Republican.
The cause is interaction and familiarity with people from different backgrounds and with diverse ideas. It leads to liberal social tolerance and acceptance of diversity. Experience that people of other races and religions and national origins and sexual orientations are not scary, Learning that the best way for everyone to get along is that you let them live how they wish to live and they let you live how you wish to live. A socially liberal live-and-let-live attitude. If two people want an interracial marriage, I'll let them live how they want and they'll let me live how I want. If two people want a gay marriage, I'll let them live how they want and they'll let me live how I want.
A larger college is like a mini-city bringing together diverse people from a wider area.
The only presidents since 1963 to have ever submitted balanced budgets to Congress are Johnson and Clinton. At no time since 1945 when Republicans have been in charge of both Congress and the White House have they ever reduced spending.
The vast majority of the national debt to date was accrued during the Presidencies of three men: Reagan, Bush I and Bush II, all Republicans. In Reagan's case, he was working with a Republican Senate for his first 6 years in office, and Bush had Republicans controlling both houses for 6 years as well.
The Bush II years have seen tax cut after tax cut that were, in theory, supposed to result in increased growth and therefore reduced deficit. Instead, he has posted record deficits year after year. And still, the fiction that large tax cuts will somehow reduce the deficit persists.
The idea that Democrats are the big spending party and Republicans are fiscally responsible is pure fiction, and it boggles the mind why people continue to believe it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Even the "big spending" LBJ was more fiscally responsible than the Republicans of the past 28 years.
If people would treat politics less like religion maybe they would make decisions based on actual historical data rather than what their party keeps telling them is the truth.