Politics is all about personality. Not the personality on television, but the personality in your head.
Here are the facts. A meta-analysis culled from 88 samples in 12 countries, and with an N of 22,818, revealed that “several psychological variables predicted political conservatism.” Which variables exactly? In order of predictive power: Death anxiety, system instability, dogmatism/intolerance of ambiguity, closed-mindedness, low tolerance of uncertainty, high needs for order, structure, and closure, low integrative complexity, fear of threat and loss, and low self-esteem. The researchers conclude, a little chillingly, that “the core ideology of conservatism stresses resistance to change and a justification of inequality.”
The above list of variables is more than a little unsavory. We are talking about someone full of fear, with a poor sense of self, and a lack of mental dexterity. I always tell my students that tolerance of ambiguity is one especially excellent mark of psychological maturity. It isn’t a black and white world. According to the research, conservatives possess precisely the opposite: an intolerance of ambiguity and an inability to deal with complexity. Maybe that’s one reason why Obama seems so distasteful to them: he is a nuanced, multi-faceted thinker who can see things from several different perspectives simultaneously. And he isn’t preaching fear, either.
I hasten to point out that not every Conservative or Republican voter displays the full constellation of personality traits. However, the more these words describe you, the more likely you are to go for the guy on the right.
This also explains my appetite for thinking politicians. Even if Obama or Dion don’t have perfect policies, I trust them to smartly evaluate all the data.