I agree it’s quite possible that part of this observed positive association between engagement and longtermism (and meta) and negative association with neartermism is driven by people who are less sympathetic to longtermism leaving the community. There is some evidence that this is a factor in general. In our 2019 Community Information post, we reported that differing cause preferences were the second most commonly cited reason for respondents’ level of interest in EA decreasing over the last 12 months. This was also among the most commonly cited factors in our, as yet unpublished, 2020 data. There is also some evidence from that, as yet unpublished, post that support for longtermism is associated with higher satisfaction with the EA community, though I think that relationship still requires more research.
Dealing with differential attrition (i.e. different groups dropping out of the survey/community at different rates) is a perennial problem. We may be able to tackle this more as we get more data tracked across years (anything to do with engagement is very limited right now, as we only have two years of engagement data). One possible route is that, in 2019, we asked respondents about whether they had changed cause prioritisation since they joined the community and if so which causes they switched from. A majority of those that had switched did so from Global Poverty (57%) and most seem to be switching into prioritising the Long Term Future. It may be possible to estimate what proportion of neartermist respondents should be expected to switch to longtermism across time (assuming no dropout), then compare that with actual changes in the percentage of neartermists across time and see whether we observe fewer neartermists within cohorts across time (i.e. across surveys) than we’d expect given the estimated conversion rate. But there are lots of complexities here, some of which we discuss in more detail in later posts on satisfaction and engagement.
A couple of perhaps weakly suggestive observations are that, within 2020 data, i) engagement is more clearly associated with cause prioritisation than time in EA and ii) we also observe more engaged EAs to be more longtermist (or meta) and less neartermist even within cohorts (i.e. EAs who reported joining within the same year). Looking within different engagement levels, below, the relationship cause prioritisation across time in EA is comparatively flat (an interesting exception being neartermism among those reporting highest engagement, where it drops dramatically among the most recent cohorts (2016-2020), i.e. those who have been in EA a longer are visibly less neartermist, which is roughly the pattern I would expect to see were neartermists dropping out [though it would be odd if that was only occurring among the most engaged]).