Do liberals just think more?

One of my favorite social-psychological concepts since I first learned about it back in grad school from one of it’s creators (Richard Petty) is “need for cognition.”  This is the idea that people vary in how much they tend to enjoy and pursue the process of thinking.  I’ve never taken a version of the scale where I could see how I compare to the population, but I’ve always figured I must be near 99th percentile in this.

Christopher Ingraham has a nice piece in Wonkblog summarizing the evidence for how this concept may be related to political ideology (and therefore susceptibility to fake news).  And, yes, as you expected, it is liberals who are higher in need for cognition:

Psychologist John Jost [love his work on ideology, by the way] of New York University is one of the pioneering researchers in this realm. In a forthcoming book chapter, Jost and some colleagues analyze decades of research on political psychology and find that a number of personality traits are strongly correlated with conservatism. One in particular — a so-called “need for cognition” — speaks to why fake news creators have found a receptive audience among conservatives.

Need for cognition” is measured by assessing people’s agreement with statements like, “I find satisfaction in deliberating hard and for long hours” or “thinking is not my idea of fun.” A measurement of people’s affinity for critical thinking, in short.

Jost reviewed 40 studies on differences in this need for cognition between liberals and conservatives. Of those, 25 showed a “significant, negative” association between need for cognition and right-wing orientation. In all but three of the others, there was a similar negative association but it wasn’t statistically significant.

In other words, liberals were slightly more predisposed to think critically than conservatives. As Stefan Pfattheicher of Ulm University put it in an email to me, conservatives “are less reflective in information processing, especially when information is consistent with [their] own worldviews.”… [bold emphases mine]

Pfattheicher also found that individuals who identified as more conservative were more likely to be duped by nonsense than liberals…

Both Pfattheicher and Jost say that any cognitive differences aren’t necessarily about intelligence. “This seems to be more a matter of motivation to process information (or news) in a critical, reflective thinking style than the ability to do so,” Pfattheicher said in an email.

In other words, in Pfattheicher’s reading, conservatives may be perfectly able to do the kind of critical thinking and cognitive exploration that would lead them to be more skeptical of nonsense and fake news — they just choose not to, preferring instead to seek out information that allows them to make quick decisions that reinforce their existing views.

To be fair, Ingraham presents Dan Kahan’s take that there really isn’t any different in motivated reasoning between liberals and conservatives.  And I buy that, to a considerable degree; to engage in motivated reasoning is to be human. But, there seems plenty of evidence that on the more specific measure of need for cognition there really is a difference.  And liberals simply think more and more critically about politics.

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Photo of the day

From Wired:

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet took this photo of flying towards the sunrise from the International Space Station.  THOMAS PESQUET.  

Crazy stuff Trump voters (say they) believe

PPP, as they will, has plenty of questions to make Republicans look bad in their latest poll.  To wit:

A couple other findings related to the vote in this year’s election:

-40% of Trump voters insist that he won the national popular vote to only 49% who grant that Clinton won it and 11% who aren’t sure.

-Only 53% of Trump voters think that California’s votes should be allowed to count in the national popular vote. 29% don’t think they should be allowed to count, and another 18% are unsure.

There’s been a lot of attention to the way fake news has spread and been believed especially by Trump supporters and that’s borne out in our polling:

-73% of Trump voters think that George Soros is paying protesters against Trump to only 6% who think that’s not true, and 21% who aren’t sure one way or the other. (I personally had to explain to my Grandmother that this wasn’t true a few weeks ag0 after someone sent her an e-mail about it.)

-14% of Trump supporters think Hillary Clinton is connected to a child sex ring run out of a Washington DC pizzeria. Another 32% aren’t sure one way or another, much as the North Carolinian who went to Washington to check it out last weekend said was the case for him. Only 54% of Trump voters expressly say they don’t think #Pizzagate is real.

There’s also been a lot of discussion recently about how we might be in a post-fact world and we see some evidence of that coming through in our polling:

-67% of Trump voters say that unemployment increased during the Obama administration, to only 20% who say it decreased.

-Only 41% of Trump voters say that the stock market went up during the Obama administration. 39% say it went down, and another 19% say they’re not sure.

Now, I suspect a lot of these numbers would come down considerably if there was the follow-up question, “really?”  I think, to some degree, some partisans answer even absurd questions with what they think is the appropriate party-line answer.  But any way you look at it, this is not a good look for Republicans.

The Russians

Damn, when Charles Pierce lets loose…

In all of these matters [Watergate, Clinton impeachment, Bush v Gore], both subtly and directly, and by many of our institutions, including the press, we were encouraged to think of ourselves as frightened children and our democratic republic as something made of candy glass that would shatter from the vibrations if our constitutional engines were revved up too highly or if they performed their essential functions too vigorously. We were convinced that our faith in our values was a fragile and breathless thing that would collapse if exercised too strenuously.

We were persuaded that we were far too delicate these days for the kind of brawling politics in which this country had been born, and for which the Founders had set up the Constitution to maintain something resembling boundaries. We were fed cheap junk food instead of actual information until we developed a serious jones for it. Our belief in our counterfeit national innocence was that with which we washed it all down. We became a fat and lazy excuse for a democratic republic…

Do I believe the story? Of course, I do. Do I trust the CIA? Not implicitly, but I trust Marty Baron, and he wouldn’t have come within 10 miles of publishing this story unless he was extremely sure of its sourcing and its material. I also believe the story because of the truthless and lame-assed rapid response that came from the Trump transition team.

These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’

Every dipthong of that is a lie. The election was barely a month ago. Trump’s victory in the Electoral College was one of the slimmest in history. And, as for the shot at the CIA, it’s important to remember that a lot of the great work done by the McClatchy newspapers and others that debunked the case for WMDs in Iraq, the stories that nobody in the elite political media cared about at the time, also came from the intelligence community. Generally, intramural pissing matches among intelligence services are a boon to investigative journalism. For example, what was Mark Felt’s motive for going to Bob Woodward on Watergate if not Felt’s dissatisfaction with the way the FBI and the local federal prosecutors were handling the case? That statement is so transparently false and evasive that it inadvertently confirms what the Post reported…

But, again, it seems, all of these facts that remain were less important than a desire to keep the real, grungy reality hushed up, lest it frighten the children. This is the most distressing passage in the Post’s story.

In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals. And they made a case for a united, bipartisan front in response to what one official described as “the threat posed by unprecedented meddling by a foreign power in our election process.” The Democratic leaders in the room unanimously agreed on the need to take the threat seriously. Republicans, however, were divided, with at least two GOP lawmakers reluctant to accede to the White House requests. According to several officials, McConnell raised doubts about the underlying intelligence and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics. Some of the Republicans in the briefing also seemed opposed to the idea of going public with such explosive allegations in the final stages of an election, a move that they argued would only rattle public confidence and play into Moscow’s hands.

This president has been a good one, probably the most progressive politician we’ve seen in that office since LBJ was kicking ass in 1965. But he has made mistakes, and every single serious mistake he’s made has been because he assumed good faith on the part of his political opposition, misjudged the depth and virulence of his political opposition, or both. It’s 2016. Why would he still believe Mitch McConnell would act with dispassionate patriotism instead of partisan obstruction on anything? Why would he believe it of anyone in the congressional Republican leadership? Hell, he even admitted as much in an interview on NPR last July. I respect the president’s confidence in the better angels of our nature, but those angels have been deathly quiet since 2009.

And (sane Republican) Jennifer Rubin:

Trump on Friday released a particularly tone-deaf statement, which will only feed suspicions about his affection for Vladimir Putin. “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” it read. “The election ended a long time ago in one of the biggest Electoral College victories in history. It’s now time to move on and ‘Make America Great Again.’ ” That he would adopt the Kremlin’s position in the face of overwhelming evidence, supported by U.S. intelligence professionals, is in and of itself of grave concern…

Former CIA director Michael Hayden, speaking on CNN, expressed astonishment. “To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions. Wow,” he said. “He continues to reject the Russians did it … and claims that it was politicized intelligence.” …

“Russia’s efforts to interfere in the U.S. elections are unprecedented in American history,” Michael E. O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution, told Right Turn. “Never before has technology allowed such widespread, semi-clandestine, and semi-deniable effects.” He added, “Whether one thinks they swayed the outcome or not, whether Vladimir Putin thinks we try to do the same thing to influence elections in pro-democratic ways in countries like Ukraine or not, all Americans should be alarmed. And that puts it mildly.” …

Finally, the Russia connection makes it imperative for bipartisan consensus on two points: full release of Trump’s tax records and full divestiture of his holdings. “Frankly, we don’t know if and to what extent he has business ties to Russia. He continues to refuse to release that information,” Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told me. “This is yet another reason why disclosure and divestment are so critical, so that any business ties with Russia will be known and removed.” Is Trump profiting, or has he profited, from Russian oligarchs? Conversely, is he literally in debt to them? Congress must demand Trump immediately sever all ties to his companies and liquidate his holdings so the proceeds can go into a truly blind trust operated by a neutral party.

The Economist:

Outside Washington, red-blooded Americans who mostly rather dislike President Vladimir Putin (pictured), according to polls, seem to be shrugging off the latest allegations: President-elect Trump was loudly cheered by spectators when he turned up in Baltimore on December 10th to watch the Army-Navy football game, an annual pageant of patriotism.

And that is what is, or should be, so unsettling. Russian interference in elections across the Western world is like a nasty virus, attacking the body politic. Normally, America is protected by powerful, bipartisan immune responses against such a menace. It also boasts some of the world’s most sophisticated intelligence and cyber-defences, and when spooks tell the Republicans and Democrats who lead Congress and sit on the House and Senate intelligence committees of hostile acts by a foreign power, love of country generates a unified response. That immune response is not kicking in this time…

As a result, congressional Republicans are stuck. They have long dreamed of unified government, in which they control both chambers of Congress and the White House, so that they can advance the sort of conservative programme that they believe will set the country on the right course. Smart and candid Republicans always conceded in private that securing the White House was hard because core elements of their programme—eg, cutting taxes for big corporations and slashing regulations—are not very popular. Now they have found a populist standard-bearer who has an astonishing ability to speak to working-class voters, notably whites living in bleak Rust Belt states, and to carry them into power on his coat-tails. Many elements of Mr Trump’s policies make thoughtful Republicans queasy to the point of misery, from his fondness for Mr Putin to his willingness to pick up the telephone and bully company bosses into keeping specific factory jobs in America, as if he were a Gaullist French president rather than leader of a free-market democracy. But many millions of those Mr Trump brought into the party are Trump voters more than they are Republicans, and they frighten and cow members of the party that he has captured

This is truly awful.  And you know what really bugs me the most.  I truly believe that the vast majority of Republicans office-holders will refuse to take this seriously unless Donald Trump decides he wants to raise taxes on rich people.

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