The low-hanging fruit in recent US presidential election years is studying the differences between liberals and conservatives ~ what makes them tick. For example, I posted a recent University of Nebraska survey concluding that conservatives generally are more fearful than liberals.
Now there’s new research at Northwestern University on this same topic, complete with interesting findings. And one big caveat …
The survey was conducted only among active churchgoers. To my way of thinking, that skews the findings unless that one huge condition is fully taken into account. In other words, you can’t make broad categorical statements about the research’s liberal/conservative findings ~ they only apply to the type of person who's compelled to attend church.
However, the main question asked of these churchgoers was indeed provocative:
“What if there were no God?”
- “Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions ~ marriage, government, family ~ fall apart and chaos ensues,” says Dan McAdams, a professor of human development and psychology at Northwestern, who co-authored the study.
- Liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of color and reasons to live. “Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity,” McAdams said.
“While conservatives worry about societal collapse, liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences,” he told Science Daily. The study's findings may shed light on why conservatives prefer more authoritarian leaders while liberals do not.
“What’s clear is that it is their political and not religious orientation that underlies the different psychologies of political conservatives and liberals,” says McAdams.
Click here for the Science Daily article.