Friends Maybe?

Can a liberal and a conservative be friends? -that is the question we must ponder. As we are all human beings despite our world outlooks, one would hope so, however the research implies that the two groups: liberal and conservative, don't see the world in the same way and the road to friendship may be very bumpy indeed.

I don't Get You!

Oposing ViewsCredit: Flickr Laurel fan

Lately there has been an explosion of psychological research related to how liberals and conservatives think and see the world, which is a good thing, as the two groups tend to be bewildered by each other. One interesting finding, in a recent series of studies by researcher Mike Dodd, from the University of Nebraska, is that conservatives generally confront head on the things that they perceive to be threats, they also spend much more time monitoring these threats. This way of seeing, may also be due to biology explained the researcher, as monitoring of skin conductance showed that conservatives respond more strongly than liberals to negative images.

A Different Jesus

A recent study by Lee Ross of Stanford University in California, has also found that liberals and conservatives envisage a very different Jesus. The researchers asked groups of Democrat and Republican Christians, how Jesus would view a few contemporary issues like: taxation, immigration and abortion. The Christian Republicans, were of the opinion that Jesus would be against things like: abortion, distribution of wealth and immigration. The Jesus of Democrat-voting Christians however, saw matters differently, believing that Jesus would be concerned about wealth disparity and the poor treatment of illegal immigrants. Believing in a fundamentally different Jesus, would be hard to reconcile between friends, as one would have to ponder what has informed these intrinsically different views.

Fight it outCredit: Flickr Loorzboy


Researchers from Rice University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Pennsylvania State University, have also studied the liberal/conservative view of philanthropy recently and again the political divide is obvious. In conducting this research, subtly different descriptions of a charity called Rebuilding Together, were created. When this charity was described as, “supporting working American families following traditions and supporting their communities.” the Republicans were three times more likely to give money. Democrats however, were twice as likely to give cash if the charity was described as, “ensuring the protection of a home to every individual”. This research essentially supported similar research, which has been conducted and the findings show, that while Republicans and Democrats both value justice, the Republicans hold greater value for "purity and respect for authority". Perhaps in terms of potential friendship however, this research really shows that in so far as philanthropy, perhaps the two groups are not so far apart.

A World of Threat

In the book “The Righteous Mind,” Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, makes a case that liberals and conservatives actually agree on fundamentals like: caring for the weak, fairness and liberty, although they may see these somewhat differently. What makes conservatives different however, is that they also add to this, loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity. Such findings make sense when considered in the light of research about conservatives greater response to threats and disgust.

However research also shows, that anything that makes us simply think of cleanliness or disgust can make most of us respond in a more conservative manner. Experiments by University of Toronto, found that simply asking people to wash their hands prior to a questionnaire about drug use and pornography, elicited more conservative views. Also at Cornell University, a group of students answered questions in a more conservative manner when hand sanitizer was in the vicinity. Such findings certainly imply that liberals and conservatives, are in many ways not so different after all, so surely a friendship between a liberal and conservative is possible.....just carry around the hand sanitizer.

"liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them." Lenny Bruce

 “Conservatism is the blind and fear-filled worship of dead radicals.”
Mark Twain


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