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)

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  1. Miguel Madeira

    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.

  2. Dr. Stephen J. Krune III

    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. Neil Munro

    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. Jeffrey Dvorkin

    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?”

    • McChuck

      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.

    • Javahead

      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. Jason Cawley

    “the distributions more closely resemble what I would expect from occupations that were subject to the spoils system”

    That’s because they are.

  6. Ewin Barnett

    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.

  7. Meade Skelton

    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.

  8. PYPY

    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

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