Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal photos of the week:

Wildlife photographer Hank Perry had his patience rewarded when he captured this candid shot of a grizzly bear sow and her triplet cubs - after a four hour stand-off to win her trust.

Wildlife photographer Hank Perry had his patience rewarded when he captured this candid shot of a grizzly bear sow and her triplet cubs – after a four hour stand-off to win her trust.Picture: Hank Perry/Solent News

Ideology, personality, and economic views

Interesting piece in the NYT from some Psychology professors describing their research on how personality is related to ideology across a large number of countries.  When you take this large, cross-national perspective, it turns out there’s some interesting nuance:

In fact, our research, which we recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that the personality characteristics that make someone culturally conservative will often tend to promote left-wing economic views, favoring redistributive economic intervention by the government. How is this possible?

Start by considering the most influential scholarly view of how personality affects political ideology: the “rigidity of the right” model. It holds that people differ from one another in terms of whether they are closed-minded and prefer what is familiar, or are open-minded and prefer diverse experiences.

According to this view, those with a conservative personality — which is thought to be implemented by basic neurocognitive and structural brain differences — are likely to gravitate toward a broad-based conservative ideology, both culturally and economically. A conservative personality, the view posits, makes you favor the stability and continuity of traditional cultural norms, and it makes you favor right-wing economic policy because that sort of policy will not disrupt the prevailing economic hierarchy…

Our research, which we published along with Christopher J. Soto of Colby College and Yphtach Lelkes of the University of Amsterdam, was the largest cross-national test of how a conservative personality style actually relates to cultural and economic attitudes. Analyzing responses from over 70,000 people from 51 countries, we found that people with a conservative personality did indeed tend to adopt culturally conservative attitudes on matters like abortion, homosexuality and immigration. On this count, the rigidity of the right model seems to be valid.

But when it came to economic matters related to social welfare policy and economic intervention — the central feature of the left-right divide in much of the world — the results were far different. People with a conservative personality tended to lean slightly to the left. [emphases mine]

Political messages often promote the view that right-wing economic preferences naturally fit with right-wing cultural preferences under a broad “conservative” banner. These messages define what constitutes an ideologically consistent package of preferences, and make people more likely to adopt a consistent ideological bundle. They make you say, “If I am culturally conservative, I should also be economically conservative.”

Our cross-national evidence was consistent with this argument: Over all, having a conservative personality made people lean to the left economically — with an important exception. Among people who were both highly attentive to politics and from countries in which left-right ideological conflict was prominent, like the United States, having a conservative personality was associated with holding right-wing economic views.

There very likely is a real connection between personality and ideology, but it has always seemed to me the evidence was strongest for cultural/social issues, and this research helps explain why.  One thing missing here (though hopefully addressed in the actual journal article) is the role of political parties.  It’s not just that these cultural and economic messages are somehow randomly put together, this messaging is a big part of what the Democratic and Republican parties do.

Notably, whatever political inclinations your innate personality may be pushing you towards, party identification is probably stronger.  Once you have decided “I am a Republican/Democrat” you are going to respond to the economic messages of that party (and best evidence suggests partisanship precedes most specific political beliefs) you are going to go with that partisan economic message regardless of how “experience-seeking” or “duty-focused” or whatever.

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