Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why Don't Liberals Understand Themselves?

Interesting article by Nicholas Kristof.  About a study on "The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives" that shows liberals understand conservatives worse than moderates or conservatives understand them, and explains why.  I won't repeat Kristof here, so check out his article.

What is even more curious to me, if you read the study abstract itself, it shows that not only are liberals most inaccurate about conservatives, they are most inaccurate about typical liberal views!  In other words, they overestimate the liberalism of typical liberals, as well as the conservatism of conservatives.  Typical liberals also probably view themselves as more moderate than "typical" liberals, when they are in fact not.... it is just that typical liberals are less extreme than most liberals think.

Odd, that conservatives and moderates are better at predicting "typical" liberal responses than liberals themselves!  The study does not explain why this is so.  I don't have a good answer off the top of my head, but it sure is curious.  Anybody have any ideas?

The study is better at explaining why liberals don't get conservatives:  again, look at the article.

Funny.  I have long felt that I understood liberal concerns and positions far better than most liberals could understand conservative (or libertarian or my own centrist) views. The study shows that this is in fact so, and sheds some light on the matter.

However, I think the study may be a bit flawed in that it ignores libertarians, and also the large numbers of folks who may be fiscally conservative but socially liberal or libertarian.  For these groups, who are somehow bundled into the rest of the data, I would think they might value loyalty highly, but would have more nuanced views about authority and sanctity than typical social conservatives. 

The fact that this group is hidden in the data probably means that it was harder to predict what a "typical" conservative thinks, because the study probably misidentifies a lot of folks as conservatives who are not quite pure conservatives.

1 comment:

  1. Got a nice emailed comment from one of the study authors, Jesse Graham:

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments! You're right, what has gotten lost in the media coverage is the interesting own-group inaccuracies, on both sides. Here's a link to a more updated article, which is still under review after all these years: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2027266 . Thanks again,