Social Science Findings about Conservatism

Eric Zuesse

WHAT IS CONSERVATISM?

The great empirical social psychologist who specialized in studying bigotry, Bob Altemeyer, in his 1996 The Authoritarian Specter, and his other writings, reported his exhaustive empirical studies, of more than 50,000 individuals in many countries, demonstrating that bigotries against each and every minority group were the highest amongst the individuals who scored as being the most religious in any religion. In each religion, the more fundamentalist (believing in the inerrancy of some Scripture) one was, the more bigoted one tended to be, not just against non-believers, but against homosexuals, Blacks, and so forth. Religious belief, in other words, causes bigotry. His studies also found that his scale for “Right-Wing Authoritarianism” (RWA) or what’s commonly called conservatism, was exhibited the most strongly by fundamentalists (and, in the Soviet Union, those fundamentalists took as their inerrant Scripture not the Bible, but instead Marx’s Das Capital). Moreover, as one would expect from persons of faith (even of an atheistic one; i.e., belief in an atheistic ‘inerrant Scripture’), people of high RWA tended to make incorrect inferences from evidence, accept internal contradictions within their own beliefs, oppose constitutional guarantees of individual liberty, believe more strongly in sticks than in carrots to correct a person’s behavior, and were closed-minded to criticism of themselves. In 1992, Altemeyer had co-authored in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, “Authoritarianism, Religious Fundamentalism, Quest, and Prejudice,” which examined “the relationships among right-wing authoritarianism, various indices of religious orientation, and prejudice. Measures of religious fundamentalism … were good discriminators between prejudiced and unprejudiced persons.”     

Three authors — Westman, Willink and McHoskey — published, in the April 2000 Psychological Reports, their study “On Perceived Conflicts Between Religion and Science: The Role of Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism,” and reported that Fundamentalism and Right-Wing Authoritarianism varied together (or tended to be the same group), and that both groups were hostile toward science, and even toward technology.

Furthermore, a summary, and meta-analysis, of not just Altemeyer’s, but numerous other empirical psychological studies of conservatism, was published in the May 2003 Psychological Bulletin under the title “Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition.” This dealt with confirmation bias, which is the prejudice that people have to pay attention to what confirms their prior beliefs and to ignore what disconfirms or conflicts with their prejudices. Conservatives were found to have this bias even more than liberals do. (An excellent summary of this article was “Conservatives Deconstructed,” by Joel Bleifuss, in the 19 September 2003 In These Times. Another was U. Cal. Berkeley’s press release on this study, “Researchers Help Define What Makes a Political Conservative.”) Not only did this research find strong correlations between conservatism and dogmatism, but one of the strongest correlations it discovered was between conservatism and fear of death. Because the meta-analysis was partly funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health — which are federally funded — it excluded any exploration of the correlation between conservatism and bigotry, and also excised religion as a factor. Despite this, Britain’s Guardian reported, on 13 August 2003, “Republicans are demanding to know why” this study “received $1.2m in public funds.” Even though investigation of the links between conservatism, religion, and bigotry was excluded from being researched, the findings still managed to offend conservatives to such an extent that it was unlikely any scientific study of conservatism would be able to be funded in the U.S. in the future, until Republicans decisively lost power in Washington. “Death anxiety” was found to be the factor which was the most strongly correlated with “political conservatism.” Next was “system instability” (meaning anything that endangers the existing cultural order). Nothing else was even close to those two factors in predicting an individual’s conservatism. In other words, it found: Conservatism is driven by fear.

A study by Bouchard and four other authors, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, in 2003, and titled “Evidence for the Construct Validity and Heritability of the Wilson-Patterson Conservatism Scale: A Reared-Apart Twins Study of Social Attitudes,” reported that political conservatism correlated at a stunningly high rate with Altemeyer’s Right-Wing Authoritarianism, and that it also “demonstrated significant and sizable genetic influence,” so that the inclination to be conservative or religious is influenced not only by one’s environment but by one’s genes. In other words, such conservative traits as lack of compassion, preference to use sticks instead of carrots, etc., are partly a reflection of one’s genetic make-up or temperament, and not entirely a result of one’s training. Furthermore, a 17 November 2014 study in Current Biology, “Nonpolitical Images Evoke Neural Predictors of Political Ideology,” showed a huge difference between liberals and conservatives that can be measured by their MRI brainwave activity that results from pictures that are presented to them of mutilated bodies: conservatives consistently are more disturbed by those pictures. That too indicates a physical basis for conservatism, in fear of death. This finding confirmed one from an August 2012 study which had been published by Britain’s Royal Society, titled, “The political left rolls with the good and the political right confronts the bad: connecting physiology and cognition to preferences.” It found that, as the press release summed up: “While liberals’ gazes tended to fall upon the pleasant images, such as a beach ball or a bunny rabbit, conservatives clearly focused on the negative images — of an open wound, a crashed car or a dirty toilet, for example.” 

The “Wilson-Patterson C Scale” was introduced by G.D. Wilson and J.R. Patterson in their 1968 “A New Measure of Conservatism,” in the British Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. It is similar to Altemeyer’s scale — an alternative to it. The Wilson-Patterson scale was used to measure “conservatism” in the Current Biology article, and was one of several measures (along with party-affiliation) that was used in the Royal Society article.

The observation is commonly made that conservatives are driven by fears, such as of “the other,” and are therefore obsessed with military solutions, and police solutions, and with having guns themselves – all solutions which enable them to force their own way, against the will of “the other,” regardless of whether “the other” is “the Jew” or “the Black” or “the socialist” or “the homosexual,” or whatever. Religion is, for its buyer, a way to deal specifically with his fear of death. But for the seller of religion, it’s a way of enslaving buyers to the seller’s personal ends (which can likewise be a craving for salvation — ergo: proselytizing so as to win eternal life).

This also explains the strong tendency of conservatives to focus on life-versus-death issues instead of on happiness-versus-misery issues (or “quality-of-life” or “well-being” issues, which don’t concern population-size but instead the consciousness of the individuals — of whatever number — who do exist). Consequently, for conservatives, “life” begins at conception, even though it’s a two-celled object; whereas, for progressives, “life” that’s of more than sub-animate value begins whenever consciousness does, and not before consciousness does (such as anti birth-control conservatives believe).

The rather blatant ugliness of the personality traits and beliefs correlating with political conservatism (e.g., opposition to equality of opportunity, eagerness to punish people, especially high fear of death, widespread bigotry, etc.) has led some conservatives to attack this entire body of research. For example, the proud conservative John J. Ray, in The Journal of Social Psychology, in 1985, headlined “Defective Validity in the Altemeyer Authoritarianism Scale,” and in a “Post-Publication Update” on the web he said that, “Altemeyer (1988, p. 239) reports that Right-Wing Authoritarians as detected by his scale, ‘show little preference in general for any political party’! In other words, according to the RWA scale, half of Right-Wing authoritarians vote for Leftist political parties! So how can they be rightist if they vote for Leftist parties?” However, Altemeyer wrote what Ray quoted here only as a scholar (in order to appear not to be “biased” against conservatives, in order to mollify them), not at all as a scientist (social or otherwise). Though most of Altemeyer’s assertions were supported by empirical data that he cited, this particular assertion from him was not, and was purely a go-along-to-get-along statement, which here backfired against him. Altemeyer provided no data whatsoever to support that allegation which Ray quoted; and, in fact, Altemeyer promptly proceeded, right after that statement, to assert that his actual studies showed the exact opposite. For example: “In every sample of Canadian students and parents I have studied over the last 15 years” (and he was Canadian himself, so this referred to most of his data), the more conservative party’s “supporters have scored significantly higher (as a group) on the RWA scale than” the liberal party’s “backers.” And, “In the United States, … Republican supporters scored significantly higher on the RWA scale than Democrats at each of six state universities I visited.” So, there was no exception to the correlation between RWA and exhibited political conservatism. Conservatives simply don’t want to know how ugly-charactered they are, but it’s demonstrated consistently by the actual and now massive data, regardless whether conservatives want to see themselves as they actually are, which empirical studies also show that they refuse to do.

Regarding Ray’s charge of “defective validity” of RWA, numerous independent studies have shown otherwise. For example, “Evidence for the Construct Validity and Heritability of the Wilson-Patterson Conservatism Scale” said that, “the Conservatism Scale” exhibited high “validity. It correlates .72 with RWA, a scale which has been extensively validated … and which is considered by some to be ‘the best current measure of” authoritarianism. A 1991 study was cited as the source of that evaluation.

LEADERS’ CONSERVATISM v. FOLLOWERS’ CONSERVATISM

Subsequently, the first major competing scale for conservatism, the Social Dominance Orientation or SDO Scale, was developed by Felicia Pratto and Jim Sedanius, and introduced in the 1994 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as “Social Dominance Orientation: A Personality Variable Predicting Social and Political Attitudes.” There are about 15 questions on the scale, and they all relate to “groups” and to whether (for example) “It would be good if groups could be equal,” and, “In getting what you want, it is sometimes necessary to use force against other groups.” It was the first authoritarianism-measure that failed to correlate with either of the Altemeyer-Wilson ones (“RWA” or “C” Scales). Whereas both types of conservatism (the Altemeyer-Wilson, and the SDO) correlate with sexist, racist, homophobic, and anti-dissident attitudes, SDO correlates more with prejudice against subordinates and victims, regardless of category. Young males, perhaps due to high testosterone, were found to score especially high on the SDO scale. Also, high SDO people tended to be more economic, and high RWA people tended to be more cultural, conservatives. Altemeyer’s 2006 The Authoritarians theorized that high-SDO people tend to be conservative politicians, whereas high-RWA people tend to be conservative voters. Altemeyer also hypothesized that George W. Bush was probably high on both forms of conservatism. Furthermore, Chris Sibley and Marc Wilson issued in the April 2013 Political Psychology, “Social Dominance Orientation and Right-Wing Authoritarianism: Additive and Interactive Effects on Political Conservatism,” which showed that when individuals were studied over a period of time, an increase in one score turned out to correlate with an increase in the other score, even though a high-scorer on one scale had no tendency to be a high-scorer in the other. Furthermore, “Both constructs are associated with increasing political conservatism, and the lowest levels of conservatism (or highest levels of political liberalism) are found in those lowest in both SDO and RWA.” So: those are two different types of supporters of conservative political parties. However, Altemeyer’s hypothesis that one conservative type are the leaders, and the other are the followers, has not yet been tested, even though it makes sense and would be extremely important in explaining history if it’s true.

Conservatives, such as Ray, have similarly condemned the SDO Scale as indicating anything about conservatism. They don’t say they’re personally insulted by the scientific findings on conservatism; they say it’s no science at all. Basically, they reject the sampling methods, or even, sometimes, the basic mathematical methods: factor analysis, and cluster analysis, of data.

CONSERVATISM & PSYCHOPATHY

Clearly, SDO focuses more on raw power, and RWA focuses more on majority-minority in terms of religion, gender, ethnicity, and all the rest. Recent studies of psychopaths have shown psychos to be power-focused. Sibley and Wilson have done a study, “Does endorsement of hierarchy make you evil? SDO and psychopathy,” which found that though there was only a moderate degree of correlation between the two, “higher SDO at time 1 is associated with an increase in psychopathy at time 2, and vice-versa.” In other words: those two traits reinforce each other. (However, that paper has not been peer-reviewed.) And a 2014 study by Dhont and Hodson, in Personality and Individual Differences, titled “Why do right-wing adherents engage in more animal exploitation and meat consumption?” found that: “Right-wing adherents do not simply consume more animals because they enjoy the taste of meat, but because doing so supports dominance ideologies and resistance to cultural change.” In other words: High SDO produces increased meat-consumption.

Research into SDO is in its infancy, as is research into psychopathy. However, research into “authoritarianism” or “conservatism” is in its adulthood, with an enormous scientific literature, having started in 1950 with Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality, which was inspired by the then-recent case of Adolf Hitler.

RELIGIOUS CONSERVATISM & ECONOMIC CONSERVATISM

In addition, Guiso, Sapienza, and Zingales headlined in the 2003 Journal of Monetary Economics (pp. 225-82), “People’s Opium? Religion and Economic Attitudes,” where they analyzed the results of the huge World Values Survey, to find not just the “economic attitudes,” but all attitudes, that were correlated with respondents’ religious background, current affiliation, beliefs, and frequency of church attendance. Among the findings were: “Religiosity is associated with … a stronger belief that the market outcome is fair. Interestingly, religious people are more likely to believe that people are in need because they are lazy and lack will power rather than because society treats them unfairly. Overall, religious people tend to be more supportive of markets.” “The characteristics that make somebody attend religious services on a regular basis also make her more intolerant toward immigrants and people of other races.” “The relation between religion and intolerance seems to be present in all religious denominations, … Only Buddhists are more tolerant [however, more recently the majority Buddhists are trying to exterminate minority Muslims in Thailand].” “Intolerance is mostly an outcome of being raised religiously” and is less correlated with a person’s current frequency of church attendance. “All religious denominations are associated with a more conservative attitude toward women. However, that effect is twice as strong among Muslims than for any other religion.” “Religious people of all denominations (except Buddhists) are more inclined to believe that people in need are lazy.” “Not surprisingly, religions tend to increase intolerance only when they are dominant.” In other words, regarding that last one, the majority exclude from membership in “God’s People” the members of minority faiths, who are therefore strongly motivated to be more tolerant than are those people in the majority faith. Buddhism tended to be the least religious of the religions, because Buddhism is actually a cross between a philosophy and a religion.

Furthermore, in June 2008, the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life issued their “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” based on “interviews with more than 36,000 Americans.” On subject after subject, it was found that the more religious a person was, the more conservative he tended to be. “Almost twice as many people who say religion is very important in their lives are conservative (46%) compared with those for whom religion is less important (25%).” Strikingly, in America, the highest percentages of liberals (respondents who “Lean Democrat”) were found in minority religions. 77% of “Hist. black churches” were of this category. 66% of “Buddhist” were. 66% of “Jewish” were. 63% of “Muslim” were. 63% of “Hindu” were. By contrast, 48% of “Catholic” were. 43% of “Mainline churches [Protestant]” were. 34% of “Evangelical churches” were. The most-extreme rightwing Americans were “Mormon,” only 22% of whom leaned Democratic. (An article on the Web, “Sampling of Latter-Day Saint/Utah Demographics,” notes that on strikingly many demographic variables, Mormons are in the extreme #1 or else in the very last position, as compared to all states or religious groups.) Mormons tended to be concentrated in Utah, where they constituted the overwhelming majority.

As a general rule, being conservative went along with being a member of fundamentalistic majoritarian faiths, basically white Christians in the United States. Regarding “Government Assistance for the Poor,” the least supportive Americans were Mormons, and then Hindus (their caste system enshrines inequality), followed by white Protestants (equally Evangelical and Mainline). The Americans most supportive of tax-funded assistance to the poor were black Protestants, followed by Muslims and Buddhists, then Jews. One might infer from this study that the more that a given religious believer lives amongst others of her own faith, the more conservative she’s likely to be. Perhaps being a minority tends to drive a person to consider other cultures’ viewpoints, and not to take Scripture as being quite so infallible. One key question asked of respondents was “When it comes to questions of right and wrong, which of the following do you look to most for guidance?” The group highest citing “Religious teachings and beliefs” were “Jehovah’s Witness,” followed by “Mormon” and then by “Evangelical.” The lowest were “Buddhist,” then “Hindu,” then “Jewish.” This is consistent with people tending to be more skeptical of their Scripture to the extent that they lived and functioned amongst non-believers in that particular Scripture. This is more particularly consistent with Altemeyer’s having found that communists in the Soviet Union tended to be highly authoritarian, whereas communists in the U.S. were not. The Scripture in the Soviet Union was Karl Marx, Das Capital. Communism was just an atheistic religion.

“Stagarite” posted at www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2006/7/12/175319/372, “Literature Review: Authoritarianism,” providing a good summary of scientific research (as of 2002) regarding the conservative personality. Bruce A. Robinson posted at www.religioustolerance.org/chr_prej.htm “The Relationship Between Church Membership and Prejudice,” in which a dozen early studies, from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, examining the relationship between religion and bigotry were referenced. Their general drift, even in those early times, was that people who are more religious were generally also more bigoted.

In September 2006, the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion issued a study, “American Piety in the 21st Century,” which contained “Selected Findings from The Baylor Religion Survey.” This study claimed to be “the most extensive and sensitive study of religion ever conducted.” Under its heading “Religion and Politics” was reported that, among the five listed “Religious Indicators” examined for Christians (“Biblical Literalism,” “Religious Attendance,” “Evangelical Protestant,” “Mainline Protestant,” and “Catholic”), overwhelmingly the strongest correlation with conservative political attitudes was fundamentalism (“Biblical Literalism”). Specifically, fundamentalists were far more supportive than anyone else of “Spend more on the military,” “[Politically] Advocate Christian values,” “Punish criminals more harshly,” “Fund faith-based organizations,” and “Allow prayer in [public] schools.” They were far less supportive than anyone else of “Abolish the death penalty,” “Regulate business more closely,” and “Protect the environment more.” All five categories of Christians opposed “Distribute wealth more evenly”; and three categories of Christians were especially opposed to the proposal to distribute wealth more evenly: (1) Religious Attendance (or frequency of church-attendance), (2) Evangelical Protestant, and (3) Biblical Literalism. This study provided 100% confirmation of the political strategy of prominent American conservative aristocratic families, and of Bush advisor Karl Rove, to seek Republican votes from the most literal, Bible-believing, Christians. Another interesting finding was that, whereas 50% of Christians whose income was under $35,000 described themselves as “Bible Believing,” only 38% of Christians whose income was more than $100,000 did. This suggests that, whereas America’s rich were overwhelmingly the financiers of the Republican Party, America’s poorest (who were strongly Democratic as an entire lot) were still ripe to vote Republican if they belonged to that half of America’s poor who view themselves as “Bible Believing.”

CONSERVATISM, POLITICS, & WEALTH

During 13-15 March 2015, CNN polled on whether respondents preferred that “The candidate has never been wealthy,” or instead that “The candidate has had economic success in their life”; and Republicans chose the rich by 63%/27%, while Democrats chose the rich by 52%/43%. Independents chose the poor by 49%/44%. Independents there were the least conservative, the most progressive, though not very progressive; Republicans, by contrast, were extremely conservative, very authoritarian, wanting their boss as their President. The most authoritarian region of the country was the South, which chose the rich candidate by 59%/35%. The West was close behind: 54%/39%. Third was Midwest: 49%/42%. Least authoritarian was Northeast, which preferred the poor candidate by the bare margin of 47%/46%. As regards population-density, Urban and Suburban were both authoritarian by 55%/38%, and Rural were barely authoritarian, by 48%/43%. Young were the least authoritarian, old were the most. Overall, Americans were authoritarian, preferring the rich candidate by 53%/40% (as if, other things being equal, the poor candidate shouldn’t be expected to have overcome greater obstacles and shown more skill of political leadership in order to achieve a given degree of political renown and appeal than the rich candidate who has achieved that same political level). It’s a population unlikely to sustain democracy — fundamentally hostile toward democracy, favorable toward aristocracy; more respectful of people who take for themselves than of people who give of themselves; more trusting of people who exploit than of people who serve; more-comfortable being led by the callous than by the compassionate — a fundamentally myth-dependent deceived population.

Here are some of my previous reports summarizing the research on that political-cultural disease — the disease of a nation rather than of merely a person — conservatism:

——

http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/04/29908.html

“Study Shows Republicans Favor Economic Inequality”

Posted on April 5, 2014

——

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/the-rich-and-educated-bel_b_4377474.html

“The Rich And Educated Believe Wealth Correlates With Virtue, Says Study”

Posted: 12/05/2013

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http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/04/first-ever-political-study-top-1-found-extreme-conservatism-intense-political-involvement.html

“First-Ever Political Study of Top 1% Has Found Extreme Conservatism, Intense Political Involvement”

Posted on April 2, 2014

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/gallup-poll-finds-democra_b_4683688.html

“Gallup Poll Finds Democrats More Compassionate; Republicans More Psychopathic”

Posted: 01/29/2014

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-zuesse/studies-find-that-conserv_b_4558541.html

“Studies Find that Successful People Tend to Be Bad”

Posted: 01/10/2014

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http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/03/gallup-finds-among-conservatives-education-increases-false-belief.html

“Gallup Finds: Among Conservatives, Education Increases False Belief”

Posted on March 29, 2015

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http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/04/breakthrough-study-proves-good-luck-causes-people-become-conservative.html

“Breakthrough Study Proves: Good Luck Causes People to Become More Conservative”

Posted on April 2, 2014

——

Concerning that last-mentioned one, more should be said here about it:

That February 2014 study, by Andrew J. Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee, is one of the most important ever done. Its title was “Does Money Make People Right-Wing and Inegalitarian? A Longitudinal Study of Lottery Winners.” It was important because, as it noted at the end, “To our knowledge, these are the first fixed-effects results of their kind, either in the economics literature or the political science literature.” Freed of scholar-speak, that was saying: No previous scientific study has been done of whether the correlation that conservatism generally accompanies wealth is causal in either direction: from wealth to ideology, or from ideology to wealth. They found a definite causal relationship: wealth causes conservatism. Or: “[lottery] winners tend to support a right-wing political party, and also to be intrinsically less egalitarian.” Furthermore: “This money-to-right-leaning relationship is particularly strong for males (we are not certain why). It is also of a ‘dose-response’ kind: the larger the win, the more people tilt to the right.” There was no other difference between people who won lotteries and people who didn’t; the winners simply became more conservative after they won. Here is how the “Abstract” put that: “Money apparently makes people more right-wing.”

This helps to explain why other studies have found that “Successful People Tend to Be Bad,” and why “Gallup Poll Finds Democrats More Compassionate; Republicans More Psychopathic,” and why “Study Shows Republicans Favor Economic Inequality.”

It also helps to explain why the exit polls in the 2012 Obama-Democrat v. Romney-Republican U.S. Presidential contest showed that Romney’s voters tended to be much higher income than Obama’s voters. Unfortunately, public-opinion polls don’t often ask questions to find correlations between party-affiliation and income, but all of the evidence that does exist on this important topic indicates that conservative voters tend to be richer than progressive voters. Furthermore, the Americans on both the Forbes and on the Bloomberg lists of billionaires are about 70% Republicans and 30% Democrats, versus the usual norm amongst the U.S. population, of 55% Democrats to 45% Republicans (not including Independents). The Oswald-Powdthavee study helps to explain why that’s the case: lucky people tend to be conservatives; it’s not the case that conservatives tend to be lucky people. Conservatives are no luckier than non-conservatives. They’re also not more competent than non-conservatives. Instead: Success causes one to be a conservative. No matter how progressive or conservative one is before one becomes rich, one becomes even more so after one has become rich.

———-

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of  Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.

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  • kimyo

    i contest the notion that one can measure bigotry. i doubt it’s even possible to define it (for the purposes of scientific research).

    The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put their reputational weight behind an investigation into
    these questionable research practices.

    The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fi t their preferred theory of the world.

    (quoting richard horton of the lancet, concerning medical studies, which one would hope are held to an even higher standard than the social ‘sciences’.)

    • cettel

      Horton is condemning the financial corruption behind it. That problem doesn’t afflict research in physics nearly as much. Research in social psychology (this field) is also not nearly so corrupt.

      Kimyo wants to reject science, which means he wants to believe anti-science — corruptions such as religion, myth, etc. Or else he just wants to believe whatever he wants — no methodology, neither science nor faith.

      • kimyo

        Kimyo wants to reject science, which means he wants to believe anti-science

        do you really feel that straw man arguments further your ’cause’?

        i reject bad science. again: how do you measure bigotry? i know lots of bigots. i have no idea how i’d start to go about rating them. maybe the closet ones are the worst? the ones who crack racial jokes non-stop?

        when you interview these people over the phone, do you keep a scorecard? how on earth do you determine their level of bigotry? do you get precision down to 2 decimal points?

        • cettel

          If “kimyo” charges that all these peer-reviewed studies result from bad methodology, then he’ll need to be specific as to what he objects to in the methodology of each individual study reported here. He’s obviously just prejudiced in favor of conservatism. His criticism of this article says lots about him (such as that this article describes him), but nothing about my article here.

          • kimyo

            i was quite specific: how does one measure bigotry?

            do you really think the guy sporting a glory suit is going to answer your survey honestly?

            ps: peer review is an echo chamber. krugman? peer-reviewed! ancel keys? peer-reviewed! bite-mark analysis? peer-reviewed!

          • cettel

            Why are you asking “how does one measure bigotry?” when each one of the studies that have studied “bigotry” that were very clearly and explicitly identified in my article has very clearly and explicitly identified how “bigotry” was measured? Just look at any of the studies. Since this article is quite lengthy, I didn’t link to all of my key sources as I usually do, but instead I placed between quotation-marks the phrase that any reader can easily copy-paste into a browser to come directly to the given article that’s being referred-to.

      • diogenes

        Research in social psychology has an endemic tendency to be afflicted with the categorical biases of the researchers, whatever they are, and an endemic tendency to be blind to the limits of its statistical methods: human beings and human experience is not reducible to the norms of statistical categories. For example, a study cited above describes “The West” as second only to “the South” in its statistical preference (according to the methods of this study) for richer candidates. But what is “the West” (or “the South”). Such categories obliterate the large cultural distinctions between Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Northern California, Southern California — and between Alabama, Arkansas, North Carolina, South Carolina … etc.

        Statistical studies cannot finally escape the limits of their categories and methods, and a high proportion of their results are merely reflections of their chosen categories and methods — whether conscious or unconscious, deliberate or ‘inadvertent.’ This doesn’t mean that they are useless but that they need to be handled with great care and a due sense of their limits.

        And in politics, they tend to reinforce dichotomous division and conflict, rather than mutual understanding.

        • cettel

          Diogenes has here smeared the scientific research by saying it’s not scientific, and yet he provides no indication of his having read any of it; so, his comment is pure speculation, expressed as if it weren’t. It thus says something about him (perhaps that he’s a conservative, but definitely that he dislikes science), but not anything at all about the scientific studies of conservatism.

          • diogenes

            You need to learn more about the processes of science, cettel. Critical evaluation of methods is basic to all scientific investigations. The questions I raise are well known and discussed by serious scientific workers in all fields, including sociology. It is you who are smearing people, and displaying your own ignorance and bigotry while doing it.

          • kimyo

            how is it that you cannot respond without bringing your critic’s character into it? in scientific circles, this is known as the ‘i know you are but what am i’ attack.

            it loses effect after the user turns 5, though. apparently you didn’t get the memo.

            it doesn’t matter if diogenes is conservative or presbyterian or vegetarian or if he/she prefers smooth jazz. your need to attack him/her rather than his/her words == your argument is invalid.

      • whatgives?

        “Research in social psychology (this field) is also not nearly so corrupt.” That was a joke, right?

    • wunsacon

      >> i contest the notion that one can measure bigotry.

      If I’ve observed it — and I have, first-hand, observed it directed at others — then it can be measured.

      • kimyo

        you can ascertain the presence of bigotry, sure. but, what is claimed above is that one can measure the degree of bigotry present in an individual.

        you’ve got 3 skinheads sitting in front of you. how do you go about ‘measuring’ which one is most bigoted? is it the one with the most tattoos? most jailtime? most frequent use of racial slurs?

        i think it’s the one who went out last weekend and beat a poor innocent into a bloody pulp. however, for some odd reason, he didn’t mention that in his interview.

  • Carl_Herman

    Fair enough about the measurable weaknesses of conservatives, Eric. This said, conservatives have measurable strengths as well, as characteristics are like two sides of a coin: virtue and vice.

    We also know that virtues of progressives currently are insufficient to recognize the capture of their own party to Orwellian destruction of all stated policy values.

    For me, I find my own self-expression most attracted to calling out the intelligence and patriotism of all Americans to recognize war-mongering “leaders,” banksters, and liars everywhere. It’s fair to conclude that both progressives and conservatives (relative labels) need more game if we’re to end this tragic-comic oligarchy dominating both parties.

    • cettel

      Carl, nothing in this article denies that there are “strengths” of conservatives; for example, they were very strong in Hitler’s Germany, and to day in Obama’s Ukraine, and in ISIS’s Iraq & Syria, etc., as well as in the entire Saudi kingdom.

      As for your allegation that “progressives” approve of Obama, that’s a different definition of “progressive” than I have, because to me “progressive” is the opposite of “conservative,” and so no progressive can favor a nazi, a racist-fascist, such as Obama.

      • ClubToTheHead

        Self-described progressives in denial about Obama were very belligerently in support of his efforts to attack Syria.

        • diogenes

          The idea that Democrats are “liberal” or “progressive” is entirely a political hoax and always has been. Woodrow Wilson gave us World War I, the Federal Reserve, and a police state. FDR gave us World War II, the Permanent Government, the hoax of Social Security (which sidetracked and sank real social welfare proposals, on the European model, which were on the table in Congress when he was elected). Truman gave us the Security State and the CIA. LBJ gave us Vietnam. Obama has given the banksters trillions, forwarded Surveillance State, Obamacare, Syria, Ukraine, etc. The two party system is a HOAX. We need to — finally — understand and heed what Washington told us: parties kill democracy. The truly progressive advances that were made, mostly on the state level, between 1890 and 1915, were made by citizens working outside parties. We need to learn from history and stop repeating the same stupid mistakes.

        • wunsacon

          >> Self-described progressives in denial about Obama were very belligerently in support of his efforts to attack Syria.

          I agree many Democrats are “in denial”. Or maybe they’re DINO’s and thus, like RINO’s, supportive of status quo policies. But, I think your example isn’t a good one. Public opposition to government trial balloons regarding Syria were so loud as to stop, well, “slow” the machinery. That opposition included “progressives” (or whatever you want to call people clustered towards the middle-left/lower-left quadrant of politicalcompass.org).

          • ClubToTheHead

            Kerry opened his dumb mouth about chemical weapons being the reason for bombing Syria.

            Russia offered to work with Syria to destroy Syria’s weapon stockpiles, thereby eliminating Kerry’s justification to kill Syrian civilians.

            Obama later reignites Cold War with Russia for spoiling his murderous fun.

            Public opinion means very little to either rightist party. The people are easily deluded into believing the parties care what they think to the extent that they would alter war plans.

            If public opinion could have stopped the war, then it was merely a war of choice, as acceptable to Democrats as Bush’s war of choice was to Republicans.

          • wunsacon

            No disagreement here, except that:

            >> If public opinion could have stopped the war, then it was merely a war
            of choice,

            Well, of course, it was a choice. And, yes, the public opinion hindered it. In order to get back on the war track, the government had to “wait” for a new bogeyman to emerge.

            >> as acceptable to Democrats as Bush’s war of choice was to
            Republican

            Not like it makes it worth it to vote “D”. But, it was a /little less/ “acceptable” to D’s.

            In which party do you find the loudest voices and most consistent opinion in support of new attacks, invasions, torture?

          • ClubToTheHead

            Both parties are hawkish. The difference is more in the style of their pro-war rhetoric, than anything else.

            One party focuses on the joy of murder (Bring it on), the other on murder in support of alleged humanitarian goals. Different rhetoric for different emotional orientations to the world. The physical reality is the devastation of real bombs falling on real people.

      • diogenes

        I fully agree with Carl Herman about this. Dividing the 99% into “conservative” and “liberal” (or whatever dichotomy you choose) mostly serves the divide-and-conquer strategy of the 1%: “let’s you and him fight, while I grab the loot.” Tactics that emphasize divisive conflicts re-enforce and intensify them. Most of us in the 99% share the same needs and the same basic desires. The 1% keeps its control and its loot by deluding us into hating each other and fighting each other, mostly about comparatively peripheral matters.

        I don’t mean to assert that the conclusions of the studies you cite are universally invalid. I do mean to assert that tactics based on hate and counter-hate are totally counterproductive: they produce more hate, not “love, peace and happiness”. Making people feel threatened is counterproductive — that’s why the mass media has for well over a century propagated the image of the ‘bomb-throwing radical’. We need to win people over to our understanding of how our common goals can be reached, not frighten them into defensive withdrawal and counter-attack.

  • diogenes

    The studies cited here may establish a *statistical correlation* between “authoritarian personalities” and “religious belief,” but that does not establish that “religious belief” is a “cause” of “authoritarian personalities” or vice versa. The strong representation of religious believers among conscientious objectors shows that this correlation represents a statistical trend, not an absolute, and it shows that “religious belief” comes in many colors, not all of them “authoritarian.” Two of the most lucid and profoundly moral statements of the problems confronted by the 99% and their causes are to be found in the papal encyclicals of Pope Leo XIII (Rerum novarum, On the Condition of Workers, 1891) and — especially — of Pius XI (Quadragesimo Anno, After Forty Years, 1931).

    The “1%” maintains its predatory grip on the 99% by divide and conquer. The interests of the 99% are unlikely to be forwarded by approaches which exacerbate divisions. We need to find common ground, not sharpen weapons against each other.

  • wunsacon

    FELLOW GW READERS:
    Please upvote/downvote this comment as follows:

    – Upvote if you basically skimmed or skipped this article because it was too long or because “paragraphs” are the only type of formatting the author employed.

    – Downvote if you read this article, i.e., if you weren’t deterred from reading it for the reasons stated in the prior bullet.

    • wunsacon

      Hey Eric, maybe I’m the only reader too “lazy” to read your article (as I wind down before going to bed) over lack of formatting or other “progress” indicators (like section headers). But, in case I’m not, I figured I’d run the “poll” above. (I think I’d like your message to reach as many people as possible. But, I’m not sure it will if it leads to “TL;DR”.)

    • cettel

      This is Eric Zuesse. Thanks for your comment. It reminded me to put in section-heads, which I had forgotten to do. It’s now done.

      • wunsacon

        Thanks, Eric. The section headers made it easier for me to read.

        The studies you mention remind me a little of this site: politicalcompass.org

  • Robert Barsocchini

    Altemeyer’s work is fascinating.

  • ClubToTheHead

    Religiosity is a requisite for support of the Divine Right of Kings.

    Roughly One third of pre-Revolutionary War Americans supported King George, and they were matched by another third pro-revolution, and another third without a position pro- or anti-.

    Those pro- and anti- revolutionaries were basically a 50-50 split, like in the elections of today.

    Today’s selective support by liberals for the Bill of Rights versus the Divine Right of Kings, shows a lot of authoritarian support of the latter among progressives.

    The support for a militarized standing army in the “Homeland” by liberals demonstrates an authoritarian surrender, minimally in concept.

    I have heard very little support of the Eighth Amendment as it applies to the 170 arrested in Waco and held on the excessive one million dollar bond for each.

    I have read Bob Altemeyer’s, The Authoritarians (2006), recommend it, and think it is very good.

  • diogenes

    I take issue with this essay on two points.

    The studies this essay reports on mostly amount to name-calling with
    sociological statistical footnotes. What does it mean to prove by surveys
    that “conservatives” are “dogmatic”? Or don’t like “system instability”?
    It amounts to showing that the character traits we define as “conservative”
    are “conservative.” By definition. Big deal.

    If bigotry consists in viewing entire groups in terms of pejorative
    stereotypes, then these surveys are themselves forms of bigotry. The idea
    of a “statistical norm” as applied to “groups” of people, insofar as it
    attributes to each labeled member of the “group” attributes which are, in
    fact, not universal but “normative” in the sense of being possessed by a
    majority of members, is itself bigoted. This is a problem of statistical
    methodology whenever applied to human populations, whether the object of
    study is “conservatives” or “liberals” or “Muslims” or “Jews” or
    “Palestinians” or “bigots.” It is a problem which sociologists have a very
    hard time grasping because of their training and professional and
    methodological commitments. Nevertheless, it exists and is fundamental.

    Secondly, as a matter of practical politics, this approach is
    counterproductive because it divides us — the citizenry, the public —
    rather than seeking common ground in pursuit of our common human needs, and
    as we know this serves the interests of the 1% who depend upon strategies of
    divide-and-conquer in order to dominate the 99%. And it is delusional
    insofar as it encourages us to think that the “political divisions” of the
    electorate — into “conservative” and “liberal,” Democrat and Republican —
    have any actual effective bearing on the direction of government policy —
    whereas we know, as a recent study demonstrated (reported on this site), the
    opinions and votes of the average American citizen have no discernable
    impact on policy making, which is determined by the organized will of the 1%
    and its institutional apparatus. Until we escape from this delusion, we are
    trapped in a trap which has been operated by the 1% with sweeping success
    since the 1890s.

    To bring about the real and important changes that our society and economy
    and polity badly need, requires cultivating a uniting sense of common needs,
    common grounds, common goals. Generating studies which “justify” hatred of
    “conservatives” (or “liberals” or …) by stereotyping and alienating
    (turning into an “Other”) millions of individuals in terms of normative
    statistics does not forward the progressive project. It hinders it and
    poisons it.

    We need to learn to start talking to each other, one by one, as individual
    human beings, with respect — and above all we need to learn to start
    talking to and seeking common ground with, people who are different from
    ourselves. This is the hardest part, and the most important.
    Hate-mongering studies do not help.

    When I tried to point this out in comments below, the author attacked me ad
    hominem, asserting that I must be a “conservative.” It seems to me this
    proves my point.

  • Kevin

    What Eric says is the absolute truth. I’m African-American. So called christians are bigots.

  • kimyo

    Of 100 Published Psychology Studies, Less Than Half Could Be Reproduced Successfully

    One of the pillars of scientific research–perhaps the one that makes science as definitive as it is–is that any study should be capable of being repeated under the same methods and conditions and if the research holds true, the same result will be found every time the experiment is performed–something known as a study’s reproducibility.

    A group of researchers found that when they actually tried to reproduce 100 psychology studies, they managed to replicate the results in less than half the cases. Their results were published today in Science, and online as a resource for other scientists at The Reproducibility Project.

    • FooNonymous

      > if the research holds true, the same result will be found every time the experiment is performed

      I’ll have to take a look at the link you provide. However, this is a grossly inaccurate description of reproducibility. Most research today is tested using p-values. There is an inherent probability of receiving a Type I or II error in the conclusion. If by “repeating the experiment” you mean simply running the statistics on the same data in the same way, sure. But generally you collect new data. In which case you are *guaranteed* to get different results in some percentage even if they are all 100% correct in their conclusions.