In June 2010, Daniel B. Klein wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal outlining his research on whether liberals or conservatives better understood basic principles of economics. The editorial's title "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" posed a question to which Klein answered, "Not if you are a liberal."
In the editorial, Klein, a self-described libertarian, reviewed responses to a survey that tested knowledge of basic "economic propositions" and found that progressives and liberals were much more likely to answer incorrectly than conservatives and libertarians. Klein concluded the editorial stating, "Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us."
Yet even as he wrote this editorial, Klein was aware that the economic propositions in the survey may have been biased in a manner that favored people with conservative and libertarian views because the propositions implicitly challenged the views of the left and not the right. For example, one proposition was "Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree)" and another was "Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree)."
To account for the potential bias, Klein and Zeljka Buturovic followed up with a new survey with economic propositions written in a way that implicitly challenged conservatives and libertarians. Examples of the some of the new propositions that challenged the right included, "Making abortion illegal would increase the number of black-market abortions (unenlightened answer: disagree)" and "By participating in the marketplace in the United States, immigrants reduce the economic well-being of American citizens (unenlightened answer: agree)."
As you probably anticipated, just like the left-leaning respondents on the first survey, the right-leaning respondents bombed on the questions that implicitly challenged their beliefs. To Klein's credit, he not only published the new results with the title "Economic Enlightenment Revisited: New Results Again Find Little Relationship Between Education and Economic Enlightenment but Vitiate Prior Evidence of the Left Being Worse," but also described his turnaround in the Atlantic.
It is not clear whether the new results contradict the claims of his Wall Street Journal editorial, but in the Atlantic article, Klein asks about those original conclusions, "Shouldn't a college professor have known better?" He goes on to say, "But adjusting for bias and groupthink is not so easy, as indicated by one of the major conclusions developed by Buturovic and sustained in our joint papers. Education had very little impact on responses, we found; survey respondents who’d gone to college did only slightly less badly than those who hadn’t. Among members of less-educated groups, brighter people tend to respond more frequently to online surveys, so it’s likely that our sample of non-college-educated respondents is more enlightened than the larger group they represent. Still, the fact that a college education showed almost no effect—at least for those inclined to take such a survey—strongly suggests that the classroom is no great corrective for myside bias. At least when it comes to public-policy issues, the corrective value of professional academic experience might be doubted as well."