Friday, May 02, 2008

Demographic profile of the US' top 50 most influential political pundits

++Addition++Steve Sailer weighs in. Bottom-line: The most influential pundits look a lot like the people you see flying in first class. Middle-aged white guys run the country.

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The Telegraph has released its list of the 50 most influential political pundits in the US. Last winter, the British newspaper released a similarly formatted list of the 100 most influential conservatives and liberals on the US political scene.

That compilation struck me as having a palpable Beltway bias. This time around it feels the same. Michelle Malkin, regular FNC contributor, major league blogger, and author didn't make the cut, but Rachel Maddow, who has a radio show on a network few people listen to, did. Karl Rove was given the top honor, although it strains credulity to think what he says carry more electoral weight than the words of Rush Limbaugh do. Chris Matthews comes in second, bemusing as his program only draws one-fourth the viewership that Bill O'Reilly does. Even The Factor re-run at 11pm eastern draws more than twice the viewership of Matthews' primetime airing. And O'Reilly has a radio show to boot.

This stems from the Telegraph trying to arrive at political parity. I come up with 40% of the pundits falling on the left, 44% on the right, and 16% more-or-less politically neutral (that breakdown may vary a bit--if I had to categorize the 50 dichotomously, I'd probably put all but one member of the neutral contingent on the left).

With most media outlets leaning to the left, that ends up looking silly. If there are more pundits espousing left-leaning commentary, it follows that those pundits will have to divvy up the popularity pie into more pieces than the relatively scarce right-leaning pundits will. And that's on the assumption that the market for political analysis is ideologically split down the middle. Surveys consistently show about twice as many people identify themselves as ideologically conservative compared to the number of people who identify themselves as ideologically liberal, pushing the per pundit popularity balance even further to the right.

But as Steve Sailer has said, the point of these sorts of arguable lists is to, well, generate arguments. Fair enough.

In any case, these lists paint a reasonable demographic picture of the elite opinion makers in the US. The list of the 100 top libs and cons revealed a strong white male dominance on both sides of the political divide.

Many of the people included in those rankings were current or former politicians who are likely to reflect their constituencies, however. Others have military backgrounds or are racial-interests leaders who do not enjoy broad enough appeal to propel themselves into the opinion-giving stratosphere. The elite fifty are even more male and even more white. They're younger too (the top 100 libs and cons averaged around 58 years of age). This isn't a moribund punditry class.

For four people, I had to give my best guess as to their nominal religious affiliation based on birthplace, surname, and commentary. For occupational status, I went with each person's primary medium of communication (Limbaugh as "radio" even though he's written books, Krugman as "print" even though he makes TV appearances, etc).

Average Age52.4 years
Male86%
Female14%
Homosexual6%*
Religion/heritage

Protestant

29%**
Catholic40%***
Jewish27%
Orthodox2%^
Mormon2% ^^
Race/ethnicity
White90%
Black10%
Hispanic0%****
Asian0%
Occupation
Television34%
Radio18%
Internet12%
Print30%
Campaign work4%
Polling2%^^^

* 8% if Matt Drudge is included
** In cases like Bill Maher's, where one parent is Jewish and another is Catholic, 1% of the total is allocated to "Jewish" and the other 1% is allocated to "Catholic"
*** Those who've converted to/from Protestantism to/from Catholicism are counted as belonging to what they have become, not what they were born as (ie, Laura Ingraham)
**** Juan Williams, who was born in Panama, might be considered Hispanic, although as far as I can tell he does not speak Spanish and at least his father, if not also his mother, was black
^ Ariana Huffington; She seems to be some sort of spiritual mystic, but is Greek by heritage
^^ Glenn Beck
^^^ Frank Luntz

No Hispanics or Asians make the cut. The two fastest growing racial/ethnic groups, due in large part to our immigration policies, have not (yet?) entered the ranks of the opinion-dispensing kingmakers.

Uh, I wonder if this provides some insight as to why the elite punditry is so keen on open borders? The newcomers don't compete with them, and they push less desirable elements out into the nation's hinterland for the rednecks to deal with. Even the bright Chinese and Korean arrivals head to MIT instead of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

How much of this utter absence is due to Hispanics' and Asians' high levels of introversion as compared to whites and especially blacks? How much has to do with leading Hispanics focusing their efforts on fighting for special privileges on behalf of other Hispanics? Does the Asian (especially East Asian) tendency towards agreement and collectivism keep them away from the media circuit? Or is it only a matter of time before the talking head class starts to look more like America?

Gays appear to be represented in proportion to their numbers in society at large. Not surprisingly, the Jewish presence far outstrips its representation in the population at large. It is in line with Jewish representation among US nobel prize winners (27%). More remarkably, Catholics are about twice as prominent as would be expected by their national numbers. Is this primarily geographic, as most nationally-syndicated punditry comes out of New York, or something else?

Finally, the internet strikes me as an underappreciated medium of communication, but I suppose I'm biased in this regard!



8 comments:

BGC said...

Thomas Sowell notes that different nationalities have favoured occupations - some are related to IQ (and others probably to personality - although there are not yet good measures usable between cultures), but others not obviously so - maybe simple cultural inertia?

For instance; I recall he said that the Irish are over-represented in politics and the Germans under-represented (being instead over-rep in the military, beer-brewing and piano manufacture) - and apparently this applies for people of these ethnicities when they migrate.

Sowell's take home message is that we should not expect participation rates in specific activities to reflect population proportions because they almost never do.

Audacious Epigone said...

BGC,

I recently finished Sowell's easily accessible Economics Facts and Fallacies. He emphasizes the same take home message in that book--that historically, groups, however they're divvied up, virtually never experience similar outcomes, whether it be in terms of material wealth, behavior, psychological attributes, fertility, or whatever. He argues, simply but profoundly, that differences should be expected and not reflexively lamented.

But I still think the complete lack of either Hispanics or especially Asians, given the latter's success in so many aspects of Western life, is pretty astounding.

Anonymous said...

"Juan Williams, who was born in Panama, might be considered Hispanic, although as far as I can tell he does not speak Spanish and at least his father, if not also his mother, was black"

Hispanics can be of any race or combination of races. Many Hispanics are indeed as black as Williams.

Williams, as his last name suggests, is a Panamanian known as an Antilliano-people whose ancestors migrated to Panama from the English-speaking (and to a lesser extent French-speaking) Caribbean to work on the Panama Canal's construction. Many of these people do not consider themselves Hispanic, but rather West Indian.

From what I understand, he is the only one in his family who doesn't speak Spanish.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

Thanks for the insight.

I didn't word that very well. I'm aware that there are those who consider themselves Hispanic who have more African ancestry than some people in the US who consider themselves African American (some Puerto Ricans, for example).

Steve Sailer said...

Interesting finding about Catholics being over half of the gentile pundits.

I'll guess that Irish are disproportionately represented among Catholic pundits.

Audacious Epigone said...

Steve,

I bet so. Just off the top of my head, I know many of the big name Catholics are--Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Tim Russert, Chris Matthews.

Anonymous said...

The pundit game seems to be extremely incestuous, with a remarkable number of the people involved being married to each other, or sons and daughters of other pundits, or at least friends of each other. For example, the current Podhoretz and Kristol are sons of men who filled a very similar role.

Punditry seems to be a lot like acting in that respect. (At least, punditry which gets widespread attention.)

The best way to become a noted pundit yourself is to run in the same circles as the existing ones. I think that goes some way towards accounting for the high Jewish representation, Jews being a pretty clannish bunch. With a few rare exceptions I don't think that pundits are unusually intellegent. Their skill set is closer to that of journalists than that of Noble prize winners.

But then, take a look at the demographic profile of the nations top tier journalists ...

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