Unfiltered: Threat & Political Views

  by  |  October 31st, 2008  |  Published in All, Blog

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The story is certainly topical, but it’s also fraught with controversy. The facile and subjective conclusion a person (or at least a left-leaning person) might tend to make is that conservatives/republicans are more easily frightened than liberals/democrats. Or worse, that conservatives are the way they are because they are wimps.

In fact, we’re told that The Daily Show also recently visited researcher John Hibbing, and I suspect that’s how they intend to play it. (And probably to hilarious effect.)

But as Sunita Reed points out in her article on this research, Hibbing wanted to come up with an experiment that he deemed to be non-political. Or at least one that was blind to the labels "liberal" and "conservative."

Whether he succeeded is up for debate. Opinions about many of the issues this research is based on very often fall along party lines, but there are also exceptions. So we thought you would be interested in seeing the exact issues people were asked to vote on.

Hibbing’s team used a well-known "political concepts" questionnaire known as the Wilson-Patterson Attitude Inventory, and only focused on 18 of the 28 questions in it. Respondents were asked to "Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with":

Original Story

Threat and Politics- New research has found that people with strong opposing political views might also have very different physical responses to threat.

• Military spending
• Warrantless searches
• Death penalty
• Patriot Act
• Obedience
• Patriotism
• Iraq war
• School prayer
• Biblical truth
• Pacifism
• Illegal immigration
• Gun control
• Foreign aid
• Compromise
• Premarital sex
• Gay marriage
• Abortion rights
• Pornography

Hibbing wanted to look at “socially protective policies” or policies that “protect the social order.” These include not just external but also internal (or "norm-violating") threats.

It’s true that issues like military spending, warrantless searches and the death penalty are a) "socially protective" and b) mainly conservative policies.

However consider an issue like gun control. Controlling guns is "socially protective" because less guns on the streets means less danger. But gun control is largely a liberal stance.

There are also several issues – patriotism, compromise — which you cannot relegate as either liberal or conservative. (Except for the fact that either group is likely to say they are more patriotic, or more likely to compromise.)

And then there are some issues – pacifism, foreign aid – which, to me, don’t have a clear relationship with "protecting the social order."

So, yes, there does seem to be something here that gives new insight into what makes a person liberal or conservative, but it’s small, and it’s only a start.

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  1. Threat and Politics: Are Political Views Rooted in Biology? | ScienCentral | Science Videos | Science News says:

    November 1st, 2008 at 7:51 am (#)

    [...] Read Brad Kloza’s personal thoughts on this story, as well as the list of questions used in the study, in Unfiltered: Threat & Political Views. [...]

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