Politics and Personality

September 12, 2007 at 3:30 pm (opinions, politics)

I have often wondered how relationships can survive in which one person is a conservative and the other a liberal.  Oh sure, it makes a cute movie, but in real life, how would this actually work?  I think it could only be possible if both people in the relationship were a bit apathetic or not very passionate about the issues.  On a funny personal note, the man I am engaged to nearly cut our relationship off before the first date because I USED to identify as Republican (eww, I feel dirty even saying it) – mainly because that’s how my parents identified (pre-Bush, that is).  But then G said that he kept talking with me and realized I was liberal after all, I just didn’t know it yet!  I’m glad he saw through the ruse.  But it is an important distinction when getting involved with a potential partner.  It seems to me that one’s personality, outlook on life and political affiliations are so integrated that I just don’t see how two people could have a successful relationship when they differ on so many fundamental levels.

Well, my pet theory was bolstered thanks to G, who alerted me to a recent study done which highlights some of the behavioral/psychological differences between liberals and conservatives.  There are actually a couple of studies out there, but I thought this was a really nice and thorough one if anyone is interested.  I will give some of the highlights which I found interesting.  And to give full credit where it is due, I originally linked to it from another blog which published a short piece on it as well.

I’ll just bullet point a few of the key differences between conservatives and liberals listed from the article, and I will do my best to write all traits in a non-biased manner.  For fun, I will put in bold the personality traits which I identify with.  (some of the following are direct quotes)

Liberals:

  • Their homes are messier, have more clutter, and more color
  • Display more flags, maps and travel documents in their home
  • Have lots of books, and books on a wide variety of topics.
  • Enjoy classical music and jazz
  • Optimistic
  • Enjoy abstract art
  • Enjoy romantic comedies (men)
  • Enjoy reading, writing poetry, writing in journals, playing musical instruments and acting
  • Individuals who grow up to be liberal at age 23 were described as having the following types of personalities as children:  energetic, impulsive, self-reliant and resilient.  They formed close bonds with peers.
  • Intellectually curious
  • Excitement-seeking
  • Creative
  • Craving for stimulation in areas of travel, color, art, music, and literature
  • “[M]ore likely to see gray areas and reconcile seemingly conflicting information”
  • Have more education, with the exception of advanced degrees in business, medicine and law.  With the latter degrees, financial security commonly leads to conservative leanings.
  • People who study abroad are more liberal.

Conservatives:

  • Homes are neater, well organized and well lit
  • Enjoy country music
  • Religious
  • Prefer traditional entertainment like TV and talk-radio (men)
  • Individuals who grow up to be conservative at age 23 were described as having the following types of personalities as children:  easily victimized and offended, rigid, inhibited, indecisive and fearful
  • Have little tolerance for ambiguity.  Tend to see things as black and white.
  • Are comforted by having a strong leader.

The article goes into a post 9/11 shift towards conservativism, and why/how this is guided by fear and thoughts of death.  I won’t get into that hear, but it is worth reading.

It is truly interesting to me that all of these personality traits can be correlated with political affiliation, and it underscores my belief that our politics are not just about who we vote for.  How we identify politically is determined by how we view the world, what we think is right and wrong, and how we think are the best ways to achieve such goals.  It is no wonder that not only our partners, but also our close friends and the people we work with best tend to be of similar political leanings (those are only my own personal observations).  These beliefs run much deeper than red vs. blue, they are indeed indicative of who we are on the whole.

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4 Comments

  1. nytexan said,

    I read the report last week and what struck me was how short the conservative list was. I guess that results in not being adventurous or imaginative. When you see the world as black and white there is no reason to explore.

  2. mysterybea said,

    I really did try to make the lists of similar depth and length, but without getting into lots of details of the article I sited, there weren’t as many traits listed for conservatives. There was a whole section on how the fear of death guides our behaviors and causes us to act more along conservative lines. It was interesting to read but I didn’t feel I could do it justice by putting a short bullet point about it!

    It does strike me that the traits I’d WANT to associate with are mostly all “liberal”, well, except for the messy house one!

  3. G said,

    I think that this whole thing would be interesting.. can we use the results to match a persons Meyers-Briggs score to a political leaning? I remember thinking it was funny to compare M-B scores with friends and finding how similar we all were… guess its all connected.

    Social Scientists, might be interesting to see a study to see if you can generalize political leanings to peoples Meyers-Briggs scores… I know I would read the paper!

    -G

  4. mysterybea said,

    G-go ahead and write a grant proposal, its a way better idea than a lot of stuff out there that gets funded! Its a great idea for research, I agree.

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