Via Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt (who, erm, quoted me on this topic, because that’s the way the Internet is) comes this fascinating look into comparative understanding. Or, more accurately, lack of same:
They asked two thousand Americans to describe their political leanings (liberal, moderate, conservative) and fill out a questionnaire about morality, one-third of the time as themselves, one-third of the time as a “typical liberal”, and one-third of the time as a “typical conservative”. The clear answer was: self-described conservatives and moderates were much better at predicting what other people would believe. Liberals, especially the “very liberal”, were by far the worst at guessing what people would say, and especially bad at guessing what conservatives would say about issues of care or fairness. For example, most thought that conservatives would disagree with statements like “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenceless animal” or “Justice is the most important requirement for a society”.
Bolding mine. The author of the post (Tom Chivers), very laudably, is kind of appalled by the lack of understanding being exhibited by his fellow liberals – it’s especially notable because I presume that Chivers is a British liberal, which means that by our standards he’s practically a Co… ah, very liberal indeed – but I’m not sure about his reasoning for the statistical difference in understanding. Essentially, Chivers is endorsing author Jonathan Haidt’s argument that liberals have three criteria for determining morality, while conservatives have six: I have not read Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind, so I can’t really critique the idea properly, but I am naturally suspicious of any theory that requires one side to be lacking a particular brain function in order to work. Even when it’s not my side that’s being slammed, for a change*.
Honestly, I still think that simple laziness is more of a factor: a lot of liberals think that they don’t have to care what conservatives think, so they don’t. But that’s a minor quibble; rather more of one is my idle curiosity about why a problem that’s acknowledged to be stemming primarily from one side suddenly became something that we all have to solve…
*At least, it seems like a slam.