Liberals and conservatives are not equivalently biased

Here is a meta-analysis called “Ideological asymmetries and the essence of political psychology” by John T. Jost, Political Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 2, 2017. This is in part a response to a previous meta-analysis posted on this blog that found both liberal and conservatives equally biased. It’s interesting how liberals, when basing their so-called biases on science and facts, are declared equivalently biased to those whose biases are based on factors other than the foregoing, including authoritarianism and fear responses.  I found that previous article to be biased on finding symmetries to the point of absurdity in the name of so-called ‘fairness.’ This article addresses that in the 2nd quoted paragraph below.

Some excerpts:

“Aggregating across 181 studies involving over 130,000 research participants from 14 different countries, we confirmed that political conservatism was positively associated with intolerance of ambiguity, need for cognitive closure, personal needs for order and structure, cognitive/perceptual rigidity, and dogmatism. In addition, liberalism was positively associated with integrative complexity, uncertainty tolerance, cognitive reflection, and need for cognition” (179).

“I have found that some critics express their objections in moralistic terms—as if there is something uncouth or perhaps even unethical about studying ways in which people on the left and right differ with respect to, say, open-mindedness or sensitivity to threat or prejudice—and that there is something noble about downplaying such differences. Some have even gone so far as to imply that researchers who document ideological asymmetries are ‘biased,’ whereas those who highlight symmetries are not. This is a fallacious form of reasoning, to put it politely. One can just as easily be biased against seeing differences that are truly there as one can be biased in favor of seeing differences that are not there. At the end of the day, any talk of ‘bias’ in the absence of standards for assessing accuracy is utterly incoherent, but, unfortunately, this is how the discourse often proceeds. Matters are made more complicated by the fact that it is part of our job as political psychologists to establish the standards for assessing judgmental accuracy in the first place. […] My own view is that if political psychologists have anything at all to contribute to the development of a good society, and I firmly believe that they do, it is not ‘Swiss-style neutrality'” (194-95).

5 thoughts on “Liberals and conservatives are not equivalently biased

  1. Some supporting evidence showing that Clinton supporters consulted multiple media sources for their information, including some on the conservative side, while Trump supports lived in a biased media bubble. Some excerpts:

    “The CJR study, by scholars at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, at Harvard Law School, and the MIT Center for Civic Media, examined more than 1.25 million articles between April 1, 2015, and Election Day. What they found was that Hillary Clinton supporters shared stories from across a relatively broad political spectrum, including center-right sources such as The Wall Street Journal, mainstream news organizations like the Times and the Post, and partisan liberal sites like The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.

    “By contrast, Donald Trump supporters clustered around Breitbart — headed until recently by Stephen Bannon, the hard-right nationalist now ensconced in the White House — and a few like-minded websites such as The Daily Caller, Alex Jones’ Infowars, and The Gateway Pundit. Even Fox News was dropped from the favored circle back when it was attacking Trump during the primaries, and only re-entered the fold once it had made its peace with the future president.”

  2. Conservatives are trying to defuse the studies that show they are worse in this regard, so they were ecstatic at the recent Pew Research study which seems to indicate polarization is symmetric between the Parties. But looking at the details it is clear that antipathy to the other side, and inability to compromise, is decidedly more on the conservative side. This is most pronounced in Congress, where the right has polarized much further than the left. They refuse to compromise at all, block lawfully enacted legislation, hold the country hostage with government shut down threats, block the lawful appointment of judges and filibuster any and everything they disagree with. Granted both sides do this, but the facts are clear the conservatives are far, far worse.

  3. Thomas Mann challenges the President of Pew Research who claimed of the study that it undermines asymmetric polarization. Mann quotes from the study which directly challenges this biased notion of false equivalency:

    “The growing gap between the two parties on the individual items making up their ideological consistency scale are mostly a consequence of Republicans taking more conservative positions.

    “Consistent conservatives have much more unfavorable views of the Democratic Party than consistent liberals have of the Republican Party.

    “Republicans, especially those who are consistent conservatives, see the other party as a threat to the nation’s well-being more than do Democrats.

    “Republicans who view the other party very negatively are more likely to vote than Democrats.

    “The ideological ‘silos’ by place and friendship networks are much higher among conservatives than liberals. The same is true for race and ethnicity as well as religious faith.

    “And importantly, as we have seen in other surveys, consistent conservatives like their elected officials to ‘stick to their positions’ rather than ‘make compromises’; consistent liberals overwhelmingly prefer politicians who make compromises.”

  4. Van Jones discusses in this video liberal hypocrisy and conservative close-mindedness. He starts by saying liberals are just as guilty of being in a media bubble as conservatives. Not true. See for example one of the above previous comments noting that liberals read or watch much broader media sources. Also not true that liberal media sources are as one-sided and biased as conservatives sources. To the contrary, liberals go to the extreme to be ‘fair’ to the point of false equivalency (see another comment above). I think Van Jones is doing exactly that with this commentary.

    It even borders on the false equivalency of real and fake news, as if the latter is just what conservatives ‘value’ so we have to take that into account. He’s right we have to open our heart to those conservatives who feel left out, but accepting their beliefs based on lies and fake news is not part of the solution. Liberals tend to fight for a better economic system that helps these very people. But they can also chew gum and walk at the same time by legitimately calling them on their racism and ignorant gullibility.

  5. Is there a T.R.U.M.P. brain? Nov.-Dec. 2017 issue of Porto Biomedical Journal (2:6). The abstract:

    “Neuroscientists have begun to investigate whether different political attitudes are associated with specific mind-brain markers. In this article, we build on political neuroscience research to briefly illustrate the structure and function of a Threatening, Reactionary, Unforgiving, Machiavellian, and Partisan (T.R.U.M.P.) mindset. Additionally, we discussed, building on neuroscience and clinical evidence, how to counteract the T.R.U.M.P. mindset [with a G.H.A.N.D.I. mindset].”

    And yes, there is a healthy ‘bias’ toward the G.H.A.N.D.I. mindset in the context of the subtitle of the article: “Implications for mental health and world peace.” Yes, those liberal scientists are biased toward those goals as well. Unless one wants to argue that the T.R.U.M.P. mindset can equally achieve those goals?

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