Spank your kids? You probably voted for McCain

One of the more interesting features of modern American politics is the way in which authoritarianism has gone from being an entirely non-partisan personality trait to one overwhelmingly on the Republican side of the partisan ledger.  A couple of political scientists, Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler (Marc is a great guy and super smart, one of the few mistakes OSU made when I was there was not hiring him; I don't know Jonathan), have done some really interesting research on this topic in recent years.  I haven't read their book yet, but I'm got a really smart student turning in a paper on it this week, so that should last me for a while.  Anyway, they discussed some of their findings recently at TPM Cafe.  They start things off with this intriguing graph:

In states with lower percentages of people that endorse spanking and
washing kids' mouths out with soap, which is the case in New England
and much of the Middle Atlantic, Obama did very well.

I cannot say I've been averse to a good swat on the bottom every now and then, but washing kids' mouth out with soap?  People still do that?  Anyway, here's the nice explanation for what's up:

Of course, we don't think that spanking kids causes people to vote
Republican. We do, however, show in the book that those who view the
world in hierarchical terms, a worldview consistent with using physical
means to discipline children, are now much more likely to vote
Republican. In contrast, those who view the world in more horizontal
terms favor Democratic candidates. The psychological terms that match
these colliding worldviews are authoritarianism and
nonauthoritarianism, which we measure by asking people about their
child rearing preferences. Those who favor obedience over self-reliance
and respect for elders over independence score high in
authoritarianism. Those who favor the reverse are the

If you are intrigued, you can listen to the authors here.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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