Main Street Journal

How to spot a Berkeley Professor


By A.C. McCloud

The story about “how to spot a baby conservative” is making the rounds of the internet message boards right now, sparking a little debate. What’s going on? Well, seems a professor at Berkeley in California has published a study proclaiming a new revelation–the whiny little kids who always complained in kindergarten tend to grow up to be conservatives:

In the 1960s Jack Block and his wife and fellow professor Jeanne Block (now deceased) began tracking more than 100 nursery school kids as part of a general study of personality. The kids’ personalities were rated at the time by teachers and assistants who had known them for months. There’s no reason to think political bias skewed the ratings — the investigators were not looking at political orientation back then. Even if they had been, it’s unlikely that 3- and 4-year-olds would have had much idea about their political leanings.

A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.

I’m not going to trash his data, since if he says the whiny kids in his study grew up to be conservatives, apparently they did. But I will trash the sweeping generalization the professor seems to be making.

For example, friends, life experiences, parents and other chaotic input tends to shape our politics. A one-to-one correlation is not always possible. For example, some people start as one political persuasion when they hit voting age, and slowly morph to another when they hit 40, then maybe another when they reach 70. Therefore, the term “adults” is amorphous here. I thought it was those smart, secure and confident liberals like Mr. Block who are usually so fond of pointing out ‘the world is not black and white, but shades of grey.’ Guess that notion was suspended for the purposes of this study.

Lastly, if we look around at today’s crop of liberals the study appears to be on shaky ground, since many have been whining 24/7 since 2000. Or maybe not. The article didn’t say whether the young future liberal babies grew up to be more whiny than their conservative couterparts.

MICK ADDS: The Washington Post’s new blog Red America has a post on this study as well. See also: Jonah Goldberg.


This story is a beautiful example of the power of the blogoshere. In days of old, the mainstream press would just dump this kind of story on us then move along to the next. Now we can access follow-up opinion and information from sources all over the internet. For example, here’s one from Michelle Malkin.

In other words, ALL of the children in that study were the offspring of U.C. Berkeley professors, lecturers, and staff members. The reason the Child Study Center is so popular is that they offer free/cheap child care/nursery schooling in exchange for the parents allowing their kids to be “studied” by psychologists all day every day.

And here’s the clincher (you probably already saw it coming): UC Berkeley faculty was rated the most left-wing in the country: 91% of teachers there were classified as liberal: “University of California, Berkeley (91 percent liberal).”

If you dismiss that, consider Jonah Goldberg’s follow up post:

As I mentioned in my column, the correlation which supposedly proved that whiny kids grow up to be conservatives was .27. Any number of Derb-like statitistics types have inundated me with email that I wasn’t hard enough on this point. This reader speaks for many:

Thanks for the article Jonah. At the George Mason (go Patriots!) School of Public Policy we’re taught that if you don’t have a .6 correlation you don’t have publishable research. A .27 correlation with a sample size of 100 is random noise but I guess if you are a Berkeley liberal that’s all you need.

Here’s my conclusion. Some of those whiny little kids of liberal parents turned out just fine.

2 comments so far

Perhaps they should do a study on the liberal blogosphere and opinion media…

Rather than 95 kids from Berkeley over the course of 20 years. This is hilarious:
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? Chan…

Here is what the study said about nursery school girls who grow up to be LIBERAL:

Is a talkative child,
Behaves in a dominating manner,
Expresses negative feelings openly,
Is verbally fluent,
Teases other children,
Seeks to be independent and autonomous,
Is self-assertive,
Attempts to transfer blame to others,
Is aggressive (physically or verbally),
High standards of performance for self,
Tends to be judgmental of others,
Can admit to own negative feelings,
Likes to compete,
High intellectual capacity,
Is curious and exploring,
Is self-reliant, confident,
Tries to be the center of attention,
Is resourceful in initiating activities,
Tends to dramatize, exaggerate mishaps,
Is emotionally expressive.

And here is what the study said about nursery school girls who grow up to be CONSERVATIVE:

Indecisive and vacillating,
Is easily victimized by other children,
Is inhibited and constricted,
Keeps thoughts, feelings, to self,
Prefers non-verbal communication,
Is neat and orderly in dress,
Is shy and reserved,
Anxious in unpredictable environment,
tends to yield and give in,
Is obedient and compliant,
immobilized when under stress,
Is fearful and anxious,
Looks to adults for help and direction,
Tends to go to pieces under stress,
Has a readiness to feel guilty,
Likes to be by him/herself, Cries easily.

The “liberal” traits that are perceived as appealing to the researchers I see as: bullying, willfully imposing themselves onto others, disrespectful of others, domineering, careless, cheater, complainer, unjust, self-centered, disruptive, rude, and more than anything: SELFISH loudmouths. Read the list again. Those kids were the jerks. The “conservative” traits that are seen as negative I see as: respectful of others - particularly elders and those in authority, careful, organized, thoughtful of others, obedient, desires to please, desires to do the right thing, does not cheat, reliable and honest, well behaved, does not want to impose on others, sensitive, seeks guidance in order to do the right thing, does not pretend to know more than she does, is not full of herself- sees the world as something other than herself.

I would love to have a conservative child!

Huge holes in the study:

-23 year olds are not politically mature. They know nothing yet of the world. They have not yet truly worked and earned their way. Their politics are largely formed by teachers/professors, media, and cultural influences – all of which are, especially in S.F., liberal. It is a false to conclude in this study that childhood personality can predict adulthood political affiliation because these 23 year olds will not necessarily remain true to their current political leanings. Liberal S.F. certainly influenced these young adults’ politics.

-Many of the study’s perceived “well-balanced” 23 yr old liberals would not be liberal if they grew up in a different cultural environment (anywhere but S.F. – look at European kids – similar cultural influence, similar politics). Those liberals would be conservatives if they were properly introduced to conservative thinking.

-Roughly 100 kids, all from S.F., is NOT a representative sampling.

-Bias of those Berkley grad students who evaluated the young children. Did they know the childrens’ parents? - any bias find its way into unfavorable evaluations of the disliked/liked parents’ children? Or did those (undoubtedly liberal) grad students see behaviors in the children they themselves had and parlayed them into favorable traits? Were these grad students qualified to evaluate child personality traits? They weren’t doctors. They hadn’t raised children. What do they know?? Could it be too that the self-absorbed liberal researchers of this study describe the traits of the young and adult liberal subjects in glowing terms because they themselves share these traits?