8 Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives

Suzanne Murray

left right liberals conservatives"All people are born alike, except Republicans and Democrats," quipped Groucho Marx -- and he was right. Liberals and conservatives certainly have different ways of thinking, and not just about Health Care Reform, the BP Oil Spill Clean Up, or Elena Kagan.

According to scientists, political orientation is related to differences in how our brains process information. And there are also real personality differences between conservatives and liberals -- not just different views or values, but underlying differences in temperament that are evident even during childhood.

Here, 8 ways in which liberals and conservatives are different.

  1. Liberals are smart. According to a study in the Social Psychology Quarterly, liberals are more intelligent than conservatives. Other studies show that liberals have higher IQs and that more intelligent children are likely to grow up to be liberals. (Smarter people are also more likely to be atheists.) More proof: Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, Jan Brewer.
  2. Conservatives are serial killers. What do Ted Bundy (the good-looking George W. Bush lookalike), Gary Ridgway (the nice guy who had sex with his victims after he killed them), and Dennis Rader (Witchita's BTK killer) have in common? If you guessed that they're all serial killers, you'd be partially right. But if you guessed that they're all serial killers who were big supporters of the Republican Party, then you'd be even more right (so you're probably a liberal -- see #1). Anecdotal studies support the theory that most serial killers are Republicans. Once caught, their conservative pals are most inclined to give them the death penalty.
  3. Liberals are unhappy. Married or single, rich or poor, church-going or not, right wingers report greater life satisfaction than left wingers. One study pinpoints the reason: Conservatives tend to rationalize social and economic inequalities -- they think the world is fair and this makes them happy. Liberals aren't able to look at inequality in a positive light so they're frustrated and unhappy.
  4. Liberals are slobs. Much messier than conservatives, liberals' rooms have more clutter and more color, and they tend to have more travel documents, maps of other countries, and flags from around the world. Conservatives are neater, and their rooms are cleaner, better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional.
  5. Conservatives are skittish. Calm people tend to be liberals, while those who react strongly to sudden noises and threatening images tend to be political conservatives. According to a study in the journal Science, calm individuals are more likely to support foreign aid, liberal immigration policies, pacifism, and gun control. Skittish individuals are more likely to support conservative policies, such as military spending, school prayer, the death penalty -- and the right to carry guns. (I don't know about you, but jumpy people and handguns make me nervous.)
  6. Conservatives give more. Arthur Brooks, the author of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, says that conservatives are 18 percent more likely to donate blood than liberals, and also donate more of their time and money to charities.
  7. Liberals are more open-minded. Conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences, and tolerate ambiguity and conflict better. Conservatives say things like "I'm the decider." Liberals say things like "What do you think?"
  8. Conservatives pump iron. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that men with the most physical strength were the most likely to feel entitled to good treatment, anger easily, view themselves as successful in winning conflicts, and believe in physical force as a tool for resolving interpersonal and international conflicts. Women who thought of themselves as pretty showed the same pattern of greater aggression. (We'll be putting this one to the test in the comments.)

Groucho Marx? In case you were wondering, he was a liberal Democrat.


Image via Boris Tylevich/Flickr

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