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Questionable Poll Trashes Conservatives

Questionable Poll Trashes Conservatives

As someone who studied both psychology and journalism as an undergrad,I can attest that when the two disciplines team up, a conservative has to either be prepared to be attacked, have a real belly laugh, or both. That’s not to say this item at Miller-McCune (slogan: Smart Journalism. Real Solutions, no recognition of irony) is without merit. One does have to read something, after all.

New research provides evidence that, when under time pressure or otherwise cognitively impaired, people are more likely to express conservative views.

All in all, it’s not too bad for conservatives. It does suggest that thinking conservatively may be man’s fall back way of thinking … when one doesn’t actually have time to think. Or, who knows, perhaps you’ve simply had too much to drink … because you’re so afraid! Why do 40% of Americans think of themselves as conservatives, while only 21% call themselves liberal?

One possible explanation is that some “conservatives” wear the label quite loosely. Another points to the long-established link between right-wing attitudes and a tendency to perceive the world as threatening. In an era where the latest scare is constantly being hyped on television and the Internet, it stands to reason that conservatism would dominate.

Newly published research proposes a somewhat different, and quite provocative, answer.

Now, here’s a nice way of saying knuckle-dragging Neanderthal. Conservatives aren’t dumb; they just don’t have time to think. Yes, that must be it! Or, perhaps they’re drunk.

A research team led by University of Arkansas psychologist Scott Eidelman argues that conservatism — which the researchers identify as “an emphasis on personal responsibility, acceptance of hierarchy, and a preference for the status quo” — may be our default ideology. If we don’t have the time or energy to give a matter sufficient thought, we tend to accept the conservative argument.

The researchers describe four studies that provide evidence backing up their thesis. In each case, they used a different method to disrupt the process of deliberation, and found that doing so increased the odds of someone espousing conservative views. Their first method was a time-tested one: inebriation. Researchers stood outside the exit of a busy New England tavern and offered to measure patrons’ blood alcohol level if they would fill out a short survey. Eighty-five drinkers agreed, expressing their opinions of 10 statements such as “production and trade should be free of government interference.”

“Bar patrons reported more conservative attitudes as their level of alcohol intoxication increased,” the researchers report.

And so it goes on:

Those who had to do two things at once, and were thus under a heavier “cognitive load,” were more likely than their peers to endorse conservative attitudes, and less likely to endorse liberal positions.

In a third experiment, participants under time pressure were more likely to endorse conservative viewpoints than those who were not. In a fourth experiment, those asked to “give your first, immediate response” were more likely to express support for words and phrases linked to conservatism (such as “law and order” and “authority”) than those who were instructed to “really put forth effort and consider the issue.”

What the study doesn’t seem to account for is the great many conservatives I know who give large amounts of thought to, not only their conservatism, but the practical result when it prevails politically. Certainly man can think his way out of many problems. He can think up government programs or policy after programs or policy that would purport to make ones life a utopia. But a funny thing happens when one does that. The individuals within and in control of those mechanisms can think for themselves, too.

Once they begin thinking out of self-interest–perhaps another of man’s default modes of operation–they think up all sorts of new and different programs, ultimately shifting more and more power from the individual to the state. Conservatives tend to think that’s not such a good idea.

Finally, there’s perhaps another reason why so many of the study subjects expressed a conservative mindset across so many different states. Perhaps they are … conservatives, or simply tend to think conservatively as free men and women of the United states. Wow! What a concept. How on earth did I, a distracted and lowly conservative, ever think of that?

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