heterodox: the blog
Liberals, Conservatives, and Intolerance
Matthew Hutson at Politico briefly reviews some recent psychological research that suggests liberals are not more tolerant than conservatives of people who are not like them, findings that run counter to the long-standing view that conservatives are more inherently intolerant and discriminatory:
… more recent psychological research, some of it presented in January at the annual meeting of the Society of Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP), shows that it’s not so simple. These findings confirm that conservatives, liberals, the religious and the nonreligious are each prejudiced against those with opposing views. But surprisingly, each group is about equally prejudiced. While liberals might like to think of themselves as more open-minded, they are no more tolerant of people unlike them than their conservative counterparts are.
Not surprisingly, conservatives tend to be intolerant of groups they perceive as liberal such as: atheists, blacks, feminists, gay men and lesbians, labor unions, illegal immigrants, pro-choice activists, and welfare recipients. Liberals, on the other hand, tend to intolerant of groups they perceive as conservative: big business, Catholics, Christian fundamentalists, the military, Mormons, the police, rich people, and whites (see Brandt, 2017).
Furthermore, although research consistently finds that self-identified liberals typically report higher levels of openness to experience and are thus thought to be more open-minded. Yet, this openness is not necessarily an antidote to intolerance (see Brandt, Chambers, Crawford, Wetherell, & Reyna, 2015):
Supporting this idea, he [Brandt] and collaborators reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2015 that, although openness to new experiences correlated with lower prejudice against a wide collection of 16 social groups, it actually increased prejudice against the most closed-minded groups in the bunch. Open-minded people felt colder than closed-minded people toward “conventional” groups such as evangelical Christians, Republicans and supporters of the traditional family. And, unsurprisingly, closed-minded people were more biased than open-minded people against “unconventional” groups such as atheists, Democrats, poor people, and gays and lesbians.
Finally, new evidence suggests that more education, long considered an important component to reducing intolerance, do not reduce intolerance. Instead, more education may teach people how to better cover-up their expressions of intolerance:
Maxine Najle, a researcher at the University of Kentucky, asked people if they would consider voting for a presidential candidate who was atheist, black, Catholic, gay, Muslim or a woman. When asked directly, participants with an education beyond high school reported a greater willingness to vote for these groups than did less-educated participants. But when asked in a more indirect way, with more anonymity, the two groups showed equal prejudice. “So higher education seems to instill an understanding of the appropriate levels of intolerance to express,” Najle told me, “not necessarily higher tolerance.”
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