There’s a persistent pseudoscientific meme across the center-left intelligentsia, conceived by way of self-affirmation and reinforced by survey, that conservatives are less “open” than liberals in a variety of ways.
Proving that proposition has been the hobby horse of science-in-politics writer Chris Mooney, who has written extensively on the subject over the past couple of weeks to drum up support for his book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science–And Reality.
The reality is that openness is not an easy quality to measure. And it turns out, The Daily Caller’s Neil Munro reports, that a Pew poll finds that liberals are twice as likely than conservatives or moderates to de-friend someone on a social networking site because of their political beliefs. Based on anecdotal experiences with the politically correct this isn’t surprising. But it also suggests that even if conservatives are temperamentally opposed to new experiences, they tend to be thick-skinned.
But the question gets at one of my problems with the “openness” metric. It seems like the questioners have in mind some sort of guided situation in which the questionee is presented with a situation that they can either accept or reject, participate in or not. It seems to start from a progressive philosophical premise of a contrived scenario and idealized outcome; if someone rejects it, too bad, they must be closed-minded.
The book uses a variety of data to argue that conservatives have a balanced set of moral intuitions, while liberals are focused on aiding victims, fairness and individual liberty. Conservatives recognize how liberals think because they share those intuitions, but liberals don’t understand how conservatives think because they don’t recognize conservatives’ additional intuitions about loyalty, authority and sanctity, Haidt argues.
The academics’ work is also being backed up by commercial research into the tastes and political views of potential customers.
For example, researchers have learned that Internet sites offering financial information, sports scores, online-auctions attract far more interest from Republicans than from Democrats, according to a 2010 study by National Media Research, Planning and Placement, based in Alexandria, Va.
In contrast, Democrats outnumber Republicans at online dating sites, job-searches sites, online TV and online video-game sites, said the firm.