Thursday, September 18, 2008

Listen up, Dems: here's why people vote Republican

They live in a different moral universe. And we need to take it seriously.

Republicans have different gut feelings than we do, because they use a different mix of the morality spectrum.
That's the thesis of a piece called "What Makes People Vote Republican?" It's overly long, but a must-read for anyone working in the fields of persuasion or reconciliation:
Not everyone who votes Republican has been 'duped'. Conservative ideals appeal to some because they reflect heartfelt visions of a 'good society.'
The author is a Penn-trained psychologist who has studied morality in the special subculture of politics and come to two conclusions. First, and this is not news, gut feelings trump reason:
[W]hen gut feelings are present, dispassionate reasoning is rare. In fact, many people struggled to fabricate harmful consequences that could justify their gut-based condemnation. [...]

These obviously post-hoc rationalizations illustrate the philosopher David Hume's dictum that reason is "the slave of the passions, and can pretend to no other office than to serve and obey them." This is the first rule of moral psychology: feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete. If people want to reach a conclusion, they can usually find a way to do so. The Democrats have historically failed to grasp this rule, choosing uninspiring and aloof candidates who thought that policy arguments were forms of persuasion.

Second, morality differs across cultures, including cultures like R and D:

[M]orality is any system of interlocking values, practices, institutions, and psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible. It turns out that human societies have found several radically different approaches to suppressing selfishness [...].
He goes on to explore five different kinds of morality:
  • harm/care
  • fairness/repricocity
  • ingroup/loyalty
  • authority/respect
  • purity/sanctity
You can see where this is going. Put together, these values function in our lives almost like the sliders on a stereo equalizer. Conservatives use a mix that is distinctively different from that of liberals; therefore, our messages don't "sound right" to each other. A story that makes beautiful music to us may sound thin and incomplete to people we are trying to persuade.

I can't excerpt it further. Go read. And you can test yourself at

1 comment:

snoozetska said...

Hey Alna Dem,
Did you hear the BBC story about how Conservatives have a much more reactive fear response than Liberals?
My interpretation says Conservatives use the reptile brain and Liberals tend more toward the cortex.