Edge: WHAT MAKES PEOPLE VOTE REPUBLICAN? By Jonathan Haidt — This is an excellent research piece that also links to an interesting test to see if you are naturally inclined to be liberal or conservative. While slanted toward academic thinking there are some simple take-aways here.

What makes people vote Republican? Why in particular do working class and rural Americans usually vote for pro-business Republicans when their economic interests would seem better served by Democratic policies?

People vote Republican because Republicans offer “moral clarity”—a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate. Democrats, in contrast, appeal to reason with their long-winded explorations of policy options for a complex world.

Most interesting comment within the post:

Publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American; Author, Why Darwin Matters; and How We Believe

The Conscious of the Conservative

Two cheers for Jonathan Haidt’s essay. At long last a liberal academic social scientist has recognized (and had the courage to put into print) the inherent bias built into the study of political behavior—that because Democrats are so indisputably right and Republicans so unquestionably wrong, conservatism must be a mental disease, a flaw in the brain, a personality disorder that leads to cognitive malfunctioning. Thus, Haidt is mostly right when he asks us to move beyond such “diagnoses” and remember “the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way. When Republicans say that Democrats ‘just don’t get it,’ this is the ‘it’ to which they refer.”

Take the morality test here.

  1. soundwash says:

    ps…fwiw: i am and have always been agnostic

  2. dmccall says:

    Uhh…how about: People who have talent, work their butts off, and take risks shouldn’t be penalized because others don’t.

  3. soundwash says:

    lol @ #76

    Paddy-O, my dad use to say something similar

    “your born a liberal and die a conservative”

    -words to take heed to. :D


  4. arpie says:

    @ #76:

    Interesting Churchill quote (I confess I Googled it) but I think the point may be a little beyond it.

    I don’t have a problem (although I don’t always agree) with conservative values: family values – check, small government – check, free enterprise – check, etc.

    However, I do think the current “conservative” movement in the US has been hijacked by what I call Regressives (I think “reactionaries” doesn’t do them justice). I mean people that will vote based on issues like abortion, gay marriage and abstinence-only above the constitution, checks and balances, the economy, etc.

    I don’t understand how one could say they are for small government and yet want the government to have more control over people’s lives. Let’s be honest here, this is only due to religion.

    Back to the FA, I can understand the yearning for social order, but not the obsession with other people’s lives.

    I don’t want to picture what two guys choose to do in their bedroom, let them do whatever and don’t even ask me to think about it — it’s not hurting anyone. I wouldn’t personally ask someone to perform an abortion but I won’t presume to run their lives. Finally, I think abstinence-only education is a complete joke: it’s like giving a gun and an endless supply of bullets to kids, not teaching them gun safety and telling them to always carry but never use it.

    More than anything, I’ll fight against anyone that wants to impose their morals on me, even if I happen to agree with them on some issues. I’d rather preserve a constitution that stops that kind of action, so that when someone I really don’t agree with is in power, they can’t impose their morals through the government. I’ll also fight for someone’s right to express their opinion even if I don’t agree with them. That’s what America is about.

    Unfortunately, it seems Regressive groups are making a power grab and the current incarnation of the Republican party is playing along. I hope people act as Americans and not Republicans, and see things for what they are.

    For example, look at the McCain of today. The self-title Maverick of 2000 is gone. That McCain is lost. The guy who’s there now has completely sold out (lobbyists run his campaign, his pandering regressive VP pick, voted with Bush 90% of the time), while insisting he stands for independence or change. BTW, how can he claim to embrace Obama’s “Washington is Broken, we need change” motto? If you, reading this, have supported Bush & the Republican Congress the last few years and support McCain now, isn’t that like saying you are stupid and you were duped all this time? Or is he just plain lying? What is worse?

  5. Montanaguy says:

    haha..couldn’t agree more..graduated from college the world’s biggest bleeding-heart liberal. After working hard, saving and raising a family I started to altruistically work in situations where I witnessed firsthand the unintended consequences of liberalism…the idealistic dreams of The Great Society, where people whose ancestors were tough and hardworking were too dependent on the government check to even conceive of doing anything for themselves. And of course, the welfare moms living in the ‘model cities’ [slum housing projects] realizing that fathers were unnecessary anymore, other than as sperm donors, with resultant replacement of fathers with criminal gang hierarchies and approval. The sad thing is that the utterly dependent are also the least appreciative of anything this country has to offer. And thus it spirals down. I wonder what great unintended consequences will arise from Obama’s pipedreams of ‘hope and change’? Maybe we can all live in a ‘model society’ someday!!!

  6. Montanaguy says:

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying, although I’m a conservative, I feel that the use of your terms – regressives hijacking the Republican party -is true to an unfortunate extent. As a conservative I want a smaller, less imperial federal government and I want the religious zealots to fade into the sunset. I wish they’d form their own party. They’ve completely besmirched conservatism in my opinion.

  7. Wretched Gnu says:

    Looks like Republicans need a brief reality check about who actually does the work and earning in our society. It ain’t conservatives.

    It is a simple and irrefutable fact that “blue states” produce the vast majority of the wealth in this country — wealth that the “red states” leech off of with their farm subsidies, religious subsidies and corporate welfare.

    You really need to disabuse yourself of this myth that Republicans “work hard” whereas Democrats don’t. It’s quite the opposite.

  8. Wretched Gnu says:

    Don’t the results of that morality study clearly show that conservatives are *less* moral than liberals?

    Broadly speaking, the study shows that liberals value justice for its own sake, whereas conservatives value authority for its own sake.

    One can cite countless cases where it is *immoral* to respect authority for its own sake. In fact, the most evil regimes in the world (Nazis, USSR, etc) are essentially the same totalitarianism whose central moral tenant is “respect for authority” above all else.

    If you live in such a regime, it is clearly immoral to put your “loyalty to country” and “respect for authority” above the injustices committed by those regimes.

    Yet, conversely, there is no scenario where valuing justice for its own sake is immoral. It is *always* moral to elevate justice over every other consideration — including blind loyalty to your country.

    The study shows that conservatives have a strong sense of order; but that has nothing to do with having a moral sense.

    Sorry, folks, but authoritarianism and nationalism have nothing to do with morality; these things, in fact, *weaken* morality.

  9. Paddy-O says:

    #84 “Finally, I think abstinence-only education is a complete joke: it’s like giving a gun and an endless supply of bullets to kids, not teaching them gun safety and telling them to always carry but never use it.”

    Hmm. I went to high school with ~1,500 kids. There was NO sex ed. And guess what? There wasn’t any kids running around pregnant. Hmm. Maybe the PARENTS took care of their kids and not the nanny state. And before people start screeching, the grape vine worked so well, you knew if someone had sex with someone else within days…


  10. Wretched Gnu says:

    Those of you who were once liberal and became conservative have simply become self-absorbed and self-serving. That would be sad enough; but trying to hide your self-absorption by calling it “wisdom” is just embarrassing.

  11. FYI says:

    You linked to a session. The account of kweguard-etc@yahoo.com is logged in on that site.

  12. Someone says:


    They would like a little more foreplay before they get screwed.

  13. Malcolm says:


    Well, being an asshole helps.

    What did you think the consequences of anal sex were? Now you know. Sort of makes you cringe at the thought of GHW Bush and Barbra in bed… but it IS the only logical explanation for “W”!

  14. Rick Cain says:

    A simple explanation:

    1) REPUBLICAN CONSERVATIVISM – A black & white view of the world. Very appealing, no troubling gray areas of morality to deal with. Answers are easy, no need to question them. Intellectualism is shunned as elitism, so it appeals to those who think they are talked down to by smart people (global warming scientists, darwinists, astronomers, etc…)

    3) DEMOCRATIC LIBERALISM – An all gray area view of the world. Not appealing to those who are unwilling to view the world as a very complex system. Offers few answers but offers lots of problems to solve. There is no one solution to a problem, everything is difficult. Morality is murky, benchmarks are few. Appeals to the more intellectual as a mental challenge.

  15. #94 – Rick Cain,

    1) Darwinists? What is a Darwinist? Do you mean someone who believes in overwhelming evidence? Or, do you mean someone who worships Darwin as a deity or prophet? I have a fairly good understanding of evolution and respect Darwin a lot. But, I don’t consider myself a Darwinist.

    3) What happened to 2?

  16. MajorBob says:

    EVOLUTION: The Human geneome contains a mix of genes for instinct from early “focus on the family” societies and later “it takes a village” societies. http://www.politicalspecies.com

    this creates distinctly different neurology:


    Social conditioning the software programming that goes into our physical hardware) shapes the rest.

  17. T Classen says:

    Since everything is so black and white and so uncomplicated in the Republican mind it is no wonder that they have failed so miserably with their Kleptocracy and had to bail themselves out in the eleventh hour. No person has ever been able to name one thing that they have done to raise the level of the middle class in the past eight years. I too work my butt off only to have my future mortgaged to the tune of five possibly many more trillions of dollars for no infrastructural improvements of any note beyond the acquisition of more weapons for a useless, unjust and fraudulent war in Iraq.