The root of our political beliefs

Why is it so hard to change the mind of a voter? A Nebraska study out today theorizes that there’s a physiological reason:

46 volunteers were first asked about their political views on issues ranging from foreign aid and the Iraq war to capital punishment and patriotism.

Those with strong opinions were invited to take part in the second part of the experiment, which involved recording their physiological responses to a series of images and sounds.

The images included pictures of a frightened man with a large spider on his face and an open wound with maggots in it. The subjects were also startled with loud noises on occasion.

The more easily startled, the study says, tended to have more right-wing political views.

The University of Nebraska’s Dr. John Hibbing says there’s no political value to his research other than to explain to both sides of the proverbial fence that the other is simply experiencing the world differently.

Rice University political scientist John Alford told Newsweek magazine that there are three influences on political opinion: biological predisposition, socialization, and adult experience.

“If you ask someone why they support the Iraq War, they would probably give you some answers out of those latter two categories. They would make an intellectual argument: we were faced with a threat and this was the right choice. If you pushed, they might also mention socialization: well, I’m an Army brat, my dad was a Colonel, my brother’s in the Marines. One thing that they’d never say, in my experience is I’m simply biologically predisposed to be sensitive to threats. What’s really important here is that we’re not dismissing intellectual choice or experience. We’re just asking for a place at the table for biology.”

  • So does that mean that we lefty Democrats are more hopeful than fearful, or simply too cynical to be scared easily?

  • Heather

    I’m a lefty, AND I’m a worrywart! I just try not to let my anxieties scare me stupid.