Friday, October 10, 2008

Republicans are more fearful than Liberals

Dr. Desert Flower has a subscription to SCIENCE, which I like to keep the current issue on the kitchen table. My old eyes have a problem reading the tiny print, but many of the articles are FASCINATING, and I understand somewhere between 10 and 50% of the papers published in it most weeks. There was a recent article published in the September 15th issue (Vol 321, No 5896) "Political Attitudes Vary With Physiological Traits", D.Oxley et al. You've got to have a login and password to get into the full article, but the abstract is here:
"Although political views have been thought to arise largely from individuals' experiences, recent research suggests that they may have a biological basis. We present evidence that variations in political attitudes correlate with physiological traits. In a group of 46 adult participants with strong political beliefs, individuals with measurably lower physical sensitivities to sudden noises and threatening visual images were more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control, whereas individuals displaying measurably higher physiological reactions to those same stimuli were more likely to favor defense spending, capital punishment, patriotism, and the Iraq War. Thus, the degree to which individuals are physiologically responsive to threat appears to indicate the degree to which they advocate policies that protect the existing social structure from both external (outgroup) and internal (norm-violator) threats."

A summarized "pop" version can be found here: "The Politics of Fear" and here (full text)

So our Republican friends are not stupid, or racist, or dimwitted, or selfish, or un-neighborly necessarily. They're merely very, very fearful. Statistically proven (P value = 0.05... that's purdy dern good!) Granted, the sample size was only 45 extremists (liberals and conservatives), and it needs to be replicated and verified in the wider population, but I do think it is representative of reactions seen in the last few months, and in the last several days as well.


  1. and note... despite what many of the Republicans I know keep labeling me as, I'm not a liberal. I'm a fiscal conservative who is socially liberal. I piss off both sides of the aisle for not swallowing their policies and positions unquestioningly. I wish we had a viable mutli-party system in this country, as every other industrialized modern nation on Earth already has... but alas, we don't. I'm not for "redistribution of wealth" but I DO believe that those who take 2 or 3 long and expensive vacations a year and who make more than $250K can and should pay a larger share of the tax burden - it's fair that way. I do not think people with disabilities should be paid indefinitely by the government if they're disabled - creative humans can come up with productive, profitable, enterprising things that they can and should do to make a living despite their disabilities. National Healthcare is both a right and a responsibility. I could go on and on here... but it won't matter. Most people come up with their own adamant opinions of others, and refuse to change no matter how many examples they're shown or how much data they're given.

  2. Unfortunately our political system does require us to make a choice in this regard. Given the polarization that the primaries create, Repubs end up with socially conservative candidates and Demos end up with government that tries to do everything for everyone. Since you and many others (some of us who are Repubs) would like things to be more fiscally conservative and socially flexible and accomodating, we have to make a lesser of two evils choice. I would love for "D - none of the above" to be a viable choice or have open elections so those who who get squeezed out of the primaries but who are more capable can get a fair consideration from all voters. It would also be helpful if the primaries were more condensed to prevent those of us in May from being ancillary. Here in IN we were able to choose from Paul and McCain, really, Paul was still a choice? So my problem is who wants to actually address the issues and act like the Chief Executive who manages that which congress funds. Neither is acting fiscally responsible, neither has a track record of managing programs, so which set of objective does a voter who is unimpressed with either select? The Senate has proven such a poor training ground for future administrators that the next 4 years are going to be disappointing regardless. I would prefer to act fiscally responsible with my resources than "The Man" because once gone, you don't ever get them back or the opportunity to fund what we each feel is important. Oliver W Holmes did state that "Taxes are the price for the society we live in," right now we just cannot seemed to agree with what our society should be. Longwinded, but I feel better.

  3. (1) why are you so afraid to be called a liberal?

    (2) on topic: did we cover this video before? it's really good

  4. 2) no, we had not, but it is very relevant, and promotes the scientific research I mentioned.

    1) I am not "afraid" of being labeled a liberal, nor am I "afraid" of being labeled a conservative. In my paradigm, my own private perspective, my personal moral matrix, I chafe at a short leash, I shirk the mantle of group think, I tend to scoff at over generalizations, I have no inner need or desire to be part of a group or association or tribe that is not of my own choosing - and by my "own choosing" I mean a very small group, a little more than can fit in a minivan, but far fewer than can fit in a school bus. If others want to be in a huge group, that's fine for them, but I'll look at the summary of the meeting afterwards. I don't want to be pigeon holed, or over-generalized. I have no "fear" of the label, I just personally feel I do not fit into that many labels. I'm not a 'non-conformist for non-conformity's sake' anymore as I was from time to time when I was much younger and lived in Highland and Terre Haute. Now I am just who I am, without the armour or added weight or baggage or comfort or constraint of such labels as "liberal" or as "conservative" or of imposing social teams who'll constrain me. I try to choose the middle ground, the middle way. As Sent Ts'an succinctly put it 1400 years ago: "If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between 'for' and 'against' is the mind's worst disease."

    And now, I am going to go do yoga for an hour or so. It always feels so good afterwards!
    Be well.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.