Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Why do people vote Republican?

In particular, why do working class and rural people vote for the pro-business Republican Party when their interests seem better served by the Democratic Party agenda?

Jonathan Haidt is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality, and he has a hypothesis.

According to Haidt in an article I read on Edge.org, his research has led him to two conclusions. “First, when gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare.”

Haidt believes that many people are more likely to try and come up with reasons to justify their gut feelings than allow reasons to adjust what they “know” to be true. From this conclusion Haidt concludes that the first rule of moral psychology is “feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete.”

I’m not going to argue with Haidt’s point but I do think a lot depends upon the individual, his education and his training.

His second conclusion is that “the moral domain varies across cultures” and his 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.”

Based upon these conclusions Haidt defines five “Foundations of Morality.” These are "1) harm/care, 2) fairness/reciprocity (including issues of rights), 3) ingroup/loyalty, 4) authority/respect, and 5) purity/sanctity.”

Haidt’s hypothesis states that while liberals and Democrats tend to focus on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, conservatives and Republicans tend to consider all foundations about equally.

The article then pointed me to a little test to measure my “reliance on and endorsement of” the five moral foundations. Here was the result.

So some things that conservatives think are important are something of a “meh “ to liberals. I'm the green so I'm even a bit more extreme than most liberals.

In some cases I can hold an opinion without feeling it’s necessary to project that opinion onto everyone else. I find mayonnaise disgusting but I’m not trying to outlaw mayonnaise or restrict its use. I don’t like the idea of abortion but I don’t think that gives me the right to restrict anyone else’s access to an abortion. From my viewpoint this is not a concept that conservatives understand.

They tend to be self righteous assholes that think their morality should be everyone’s morality. I tend to go with the Wiccan Creed, “An it harm none, then do as you will” which is of course a focus on "harm."

I’m shaky on abortion because I don’t entirely buy into the premise that it harms none.

Anyway, I certainly agree with Haidt, and my test results, that I’m heavily focused on harm and fairness. I consider myself loyal up to a point. My loyalty ends where my ethics get violated.

As a child of the sixties respect for authority isn’t really in my vocabulary. You have to earn my respect . Simply having a fancy title or powerful position doesn’t automatically get you more than a nominal amount and I tend to take pronouncement from authorities with more skepticism than I take pronouncements from just plain folks.

As for purity, I’m a little on the squeamish side when it comes to certain things but, again, I don’t feel any compulsion to project that onto anyone else. Just because I find it yucky doesn’t mean I think society will come crumbling down if someone else does it, whatever it may be. Now what do you suppose I could be alluding to here?

Where I will attempt to project my opinion onto everyone else or society as a whole is when harm or fairness is involved. That being the case, I guess I sort of think Haidt is onto something.

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