Jonah Goldberg

Remember the cocky, arrogant kid in nursery school, the one who always thought that he had all the answers and that he could do whatever he wanted, and was always ignoring what the teacher had to say? Chances are this bully grew up to be a conservative.

Right now, I have no doubt that some liberal readers are nodding their heads and saying, "Yes! That makes total sense. Conservatives are such bullies!"

Well, according to the latest "scientific" study this is nonsense. In fact, it's the other way around.

Here's the lead from a story in the Toronto Star about a new study in the Journal of Research Into Personality: "Remember the whiny, insecure kid in nursery school, the one who always thought everyone was out to get him, and was always running to the teacher with complaints? Chances are he grew up to be a conservative."

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley - of course - found that of the roughly 100 kids they tracked for 20 years, starting in nursery school, the whiny kids were more likely to become conservatives.

UC Berkeley professor Jack Block's theory, according to the Star, is that insecure kids look for "reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial."

Ah yes, in Berkeley, Calif., nothing is more rebellious to the status quo than being a liberal. Why, they must be pariahs at the local organic food co-op. I mean, it's just plain heroic to embrace liberal politics in a town where residents cast 90 percent of their votes for John Kerry and only 6.6 percent of their votes for Bush.

But don't nominate these mavericks for a Profiles in Courage award just yet. If you read down to the 15th paragraph in the story, you'll discover that there was "a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being a liberal as an adult." In other words, self-reliance explains seven percent of the variance between kids who bravely became liberal and tykes who supinely embraced conservative politics.

One obvious problem with this sort of analysis is that the single best predictor of partisan affiliation is the political orientation of your parents. In Berkeley, the most liberal majority-white city in America, most kids are going to be liberal because their parents are liberal. If one or two of the whinier kids turn out to be conservative, it might have more to do with the fact that their parents are whiny conservatives. Heck, if I lived in Berkeley, I might be whiny too.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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