Are conservatives more obedient and agreeable than their liberal counterparts?

Jun 27, 2014

Over the last few years, we've seen increasing dissent among liberals and conservatives on important issues such as gun control, health care and same-sex marriage. Both sides often have a difficult time reconciling their own views with their opposition, and many times it appears that liberals are unable to band together under a unifying platform. Why do conservatives appear to have an affinity for obeying leadership? And why do conservatives perceive greater consensus among politically like-minded others?

Two studies publishing in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin shed light on these questions.

Loyalty to leadership

Historically, conservatives are viewed as being more obedient and more respectful of leadership. Whereas, liberals tend to be associated with protests and blatant acts of rebellion. Previous research has seemed to suggest that the act of obedience is divisive, and that this cultural war among liberals and conservatives may stem from the fact that obedience elicits different emotional responses. Researchers at the University of Winnipeg delved further into this perception of obedience to authority with three studies, and found that liberals and conservatives are more similar than they may appear.

Lead researcher Jeremy Frimer explains that "beneath the surface of some of these ideological debates is a fundamental need to belong to a group that has a strong leader. Both sides feel the need. And both sides believe that people should do as their leader tells them to do. The difference between the groups is not whether they value obedience to authority. Rather, the difference is about which authority they think is worthy of obedience."

In surveying participants, the researchers found that the act of obedience itself elicits similar moral sentiments from both conservatives and liberals; the differences sparked only when participants perceived the authorities to advance a political agenda. Testing the participants perceptions proved trickier than expected, because the researchers found that the concepts of authority and obedience automatically elicit thoughts of a conservative authority. This finding may explain why appears to be a concept conservatives favor over liberals.

Once researchers were able to move beyond the cognitive baggage of the term 'authority' in the first two studies, the third and final study illustrates that liberals and conservatives do value obedience equally. Authorities with a conservative agenda, such as religious leaders and commanding military officers, elicit a positive moral response from participants who are politically conservative. Authorities with liberal agendas, such as environmentalists and civil rights activists, elicited positive moral sentiment from liberal participants. Neutral leaders, like office managers and janitors, were equally positive for both liberals and conservatives. Obedience itself is not ideologically divisive, but rather depends on how similar the authority is in their viewpoints and opinions, and conservatives will call for rebellion when the authorities are from the 'other team.'

Agreement and consensus

Researchers at New York University and the University of Toronto explored the concept that conservatives desire to share reality more strongly than liberals. The perception of in-group consensus can help mobilize group members toward collective efforts and a stronger intention to vote in a particular election.

"Individuals can attain a sense of shared reality through perceiving that other people hold similar beliefs as they personally do," lead researcher Chadly Stern explains. "For example, we found that conservatives, more than liberals, perceived that politically like-minded others made similar judgments concerning whether a target person was born in November or December, simply based on seeing a picture of the person. Even though this judgment was devoid of political meaning, conservatives' perceptions of similarity were associated with the feeling that they "shared reality" with other conservatives."

The findings suggest that perceiving consensus on non-political judgments, like guessing someone's birth month, has implications for outcomes that are politically meaningful. Liberals appear to be more motivated to perceive their beliefs as relatively unique, which can undermine the development of a cohesive movement. A stronger desire for shared reality among conservatives may be why the Tea Party gained more momentum than the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Explore further: Liberals aren't like the rest, or so they think

More information: Frimer, J.A., Gaucher, D., Schaefer, N.K. (2014). Political Conservatives' Affinity for Obedience to Authority is Loyal, Not Blind. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9).

Stern, C., West, T.V., Jost, J.T., Rule, N.O. (2014). "Ditto Heads": Do Conservatives Perceive Greater Consensus Within their Ranks than Liberals? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40(9).

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Liberals aren't like the rest, or so they think

Nov 19, 2013

Liberals tend to underestimate the amount of actual agreement among those who share their ideology, while conservatives tend to overestimate intra-group agreement, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a jour ...

What do liberals and conservatives look for in a date?

Sep 10, 2013

Liberals and conservatives are looking for the same thing when they join online dating websites, according to new research co-authored by University of Miami political scientist Casey Klofstad. The study, published in Political Be ...

Conservatism as a source of happiness

Feb 11, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Conservatives are happier than liberals because of their strong ties to a large network of social groups, according to a study from The University of Queensland.

Recommended for you

Congressional rift over environment influences public

8 hours ago

American citizens are increasingly divided over the issue of environmental protection and seem to be taking their cue primarily from Congress, finds new research led by a Michigan State University scholar.

Decoding ethnic labels

Jul 30, 2014

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Local education politics 'far from dead'

Jul 29, 2014

Teach for America, known for recruiting teachers, is also setting its sights on capturing school board seats across the nation. Surprisingly, however, political candidates from the program aren't just pushing ...

First grade reading suffers in segregated schools

Jul 29, 2014

A groundbreaking study from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) has found that African-American students in first grade experience smaller gains in reading when they attend segregated schools—but the ...

User comments : 29

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

randm234
4.4 / 5 (5) Jun 27, 2014
I hate "studies" like this. Liberal and conservative are basically meaningless. Most people would call me a conservative because I lean heavily toward the libertarian side. But I am also pro-drug legalization, pro-gay rights, and an atheist. Because I'm not for government intervention on most things in daily life, don't follow the progressive herd on things like feminism, and I am for low taxes I'm "conservative".

Added what I find in most studies like this, its more confirming the researchers personal bias.
24volts
4.2 / 5 (6) Jun 27, 2014
Well, other than the fact that I'm Christian versus an Atheist we pretty well share the same views. I definitely consider myself a conservative in most things and I also lean toward the Libertarian view.
I honestly don't see what being pro-legal rights for homosexuals and and pro-drug legalization has to do with it. Pot at least should have never been made illegal to begin with and there is no common sense reason why homosexual couples should not have the same legal rights as man and wife couples.

I think people are put into categories far too easily. I don't know anyone that only fits on the left or right scale. Everyone is different and generally tend to fit more in the middle except on a few things they have strong personal beliefs about and those can be all over the left/right scale of things.
Uncle Ira
3.9 / 5 (8) Jun 27, 2014
The question that is the title to the article is joke, right? Has anybody ever listened to those conservative couyons on the radio or televisions? I tell you they are one gang of lying and mad with anybody who ain't mean and mealy mouth like they are.

I got the experiment for you scientist-pretending peoples who come here to give out your odd ball theories. You go to the Bully Pulpit polictial forum and try to say something good for the Democrats, or bad for the Tea-Party-Skippys and see how agreeable they are.

They don't obey the rules either. If you are the Tea-Party-Skippy you can call other poster-Skippys the names but if you call them not-smart-Skippy back, then the no-name-calling rule kicks in.

They say they are the serious debaters, trust ol Ira, it's just a club to make them selfs feel good. If you try my experiment, don't say nothing about Ira-Skippy recommending you because if you do they will not even let you in. Don't start with bad-Obama either, ease into it.

Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (7) Jun 27, 2014
P.S. for everybody. If you want the good laugh and big fun, you go over to that place and start talking with three or two of them peoples. After everything get comfortable bring up this fool of a couyon from the physorg place named Ira-Skippy or Ira-anything who calls people the Skippy. Hoooyeeei they get crazy when they hear my name. You tell them you see Ira-The-Skippy from Louisiana over here talking bad on the Tea-Party-Skippys and getting away with it.

Especially tell them about the silly looking pointy caps I pass out and the bad karma list. You see their computer explode into flames on that one.

Hoooyeeei I ain't try that one yet, I might give that one a go.
otero
Jun 27, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (6) Jun 27, 2014
Conservatism stems from torries and they abeyance to the Roman Catholic Church in all matters. The basis of their thought is presupposed upon an imaginary, invisible skyfairy that somehow cares about humans but not much else on their little blue planet
Code_Warrior
3.5 / 5 (4) Jun 27, 2014
That word "obediance" really bugs me. On the one hand, I don't consider myself "obediant" to anyone. I don't acknowledge ANYONE as my leader. What I do acknowledge is that when I agree to work for a business, and that business has a command structure, I also agree to be bound by that command structure, not out of "obediance", but because I agreed to accept the job under those terms and I will live up to that agreement. If I reach the point that I no longer wish to be bound by the command structure of a business, then I will quit and find a new job.

However, I will NEVER consider a politician to be a leader. Politicians are nothing more than representatives of the people. They work FOR the people, they must not be thought of as leaders under any circumstances.

I am a conservative, but I will NEVER allow politicians to think of themselves as leaders. It's the other way around, the people are the leaders and the politicians need to obey us.
ekim
5 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2014
If I reach the point that I no longer wish to be bound by the command structure of a business, then I will quit and find a new job.

Wouldn't it make better business sense to try and change the structure first. A business can't succeed without employees. If employees are continually hired trained and quit, it is a large drain on company resources.
Doug_Huffman
1 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2014
Liberal/conservative have been hijacked by the PC for their purposes. Compare and contrast progressive/anti-progressive; progressivism being the political bowel movement to make-things-better and damn the consequences.
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be MASTER—that's all."

God Bless US Bitter Clingers, either we are equal or we are not.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Jun 28, 2014
The 'liberal' press is quite obedient to the socialist Obama regime.
Obedience is demanded of socialists.
True liberals support the ideal of individual liberty, not the power of an individual dictator.
ekim
5 / 5 (2) Jun 28, 2014
The 'liberal' press is quite obedient to the socialist Obama regime.
Obedience is demanded of socialists.
True liberals support the ideal of individual liberty, not the power of an individual dictator.

True liberals don't see any politician as a leader, but as a chosen representative. Obama does as he is told by the people who voted for him. If you didn't vote for him, that means you and your views are in the minority. Next time try to change your views, rather than expecting the majority to change theirs.
kochevnik
2.3 / 5 (4) Jun 28, 2014
"Obama does as he is told by the banksters who voted him in"

Fixed that
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2014
told by the people who voted for him.

But it must be within the limits of a Constitution the protect minorities.

The majority now disapprove of Obama:
http://www.realcl...044.html
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (2) Jun 28, 2014
I've been accused both of being a Liberal *and* a Conservative for applying a modicum of common-sense to opposing speakers' claims. When you can falsify dearly held, grimly fought positions with a moment's thought, the rudiments of Science and a little logic, you must wonder at their followers' blind faith.

The only explanation I can offer is that many, many folk would rather nail their colours to any convenient mast (or authority figure) than accept that the world just ain't so...

(Of course, as progress is often made by unreasonable folk, there must be some variation of population expression of hypothetical 'iconoclast' gene ;-)

Speaking of which, I've been agnostic since I was six (6), when I serendipitously falsified my faith-school's teachings...
peter_trypsteen
5 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2014
'Liberalism' and 'conservatism' are not practised by politicians.
And most people fall for the show of liberal <> conservative smoke and mirrors pretend game.
It's all manipulation and smoke and mirrors people!

Liberal uniqueness and conservative consensus are both ideological illusions:
http://medicalxpr...ons.html
peter_trypsteen
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2014
I've been accused both of being a Liberal *and* a Conservative for applying a modicum of common-sense to opposing speakers' claims. When you can falsify dearly held, grimly fought positions with a moment's thought, the rudiments of Science and a little logic, you must wonder at their followers' blind faith.

Very good observation Nik_2213.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2014
'Liberal' and 'conservative' are value terms.
Socialists, those who want to use govt power to control the lives of others, can be quite conservative to keep power.
ekim
5 / 5 (1) Jun 29, 2014
The majority now disapprove of Obama:
http://www.realcl...044.html

Are you trusting the polls now? I suppose it is another authority to obey. The only poll I trust happens when "everybody" votes.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2014
The majority now disapprove of Obama:
http://www.realcl...044.html

Are you trusting the polls now? I suppose it is another authority to obey. The only poll I trust happens when "everybody" votes.

Not everyone votes.
Politicians pay attention to polls.
"A fear of voting has gripped Democratic leaders in the Senate, slowing the chamber's modest productivity this election season to a near halt."
http://www.breitb...c-chiefs
"The White House and Senate Democrats are preparing an extensive midterm campaign strategy built around one unavoidable fact: Hardly any candidates in the most competitive states want President Barack Obama anywhere near them."
http://www.politi...310.html
kochevnik
2 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2014
Conservatism stems from the time when the church was the third organ of European power structures. A king could not reliably instigate war. But with the backing of gawd the peasants could be gathered in good measure and reliably fight to the death. However treasuries still emptied.

With the invention of debt banking structures by the Templars and later the Vatican-authorized Rothschilds, kings could reliably fight wars until relationships with the banksters floundered or one side capitulated. The church became ancillary and "secular humanism" arose to take place of the christopath's skyfairy.

Conservatives are simply atravists who cling to the old war power structure

All ideologies are created by the aristocrats as a mental yoke around the proletariat. Liberalism only reaches as far as the kleptopaths allow, and mocks the full meaning of the term just as there is little conservative about conservatism
otero
Jun 29, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
otero
Jun 29, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2014
'Progressives'/ 'liberals'/socialists are the throwbacks who believe humans have no inherent right to life, liberty and property.
They believe only the govt, (king, dictator, committee, tribal leader, ...) can dole out life, liberty and property.
Only in the past few centuries have humans had the opportunity to get a glimpse what can happen when the govt is limited and the natural human rights of life, liberty and property are protected.
Some of the most famous legends in human history are King Leonidas, Spartacus, Jesus, Arthur, William Wallace, Martin Luther, ....all opposed govt oppression.
Why are 'liberals' so keen to control the lives of others?
otero
Jun 29, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ekim
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2014
Why are 'liberals' so keen to control the lives of others?

Didn't Jesus want all the bread and all the fishes from the members of the group he was leading? Then all of the food is later doled out by a central authority to the members of the group. Leading 12 people or 300 million people, the lesson remains the same.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2014
Jesus asked.
Socialists don't ask. They put a gun to your head.
ekim
3 / 5 (2) Jun 29, 2014
Jesus asked.
Socialists don't ask. They put a gun to your head.

So what happens when somebody decides to say no to Jesus or his followers? I'm pretty sure you burn for that.
rhugh1066
1 / 5 (4) Jun 29, 2014
I couldn't help but notice that Uncle Ira crudely scolded those whose opinions differ from his by claiming that they call their opponents names and yet in the same comment repeatedly used that ludicrous "skippy" name for them. Hey Ira, yell up from your mom's basement and ask her what HYPOCRISY means.
Vietvet
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 29, 2014
I couldn't help but notice that Uncle Ira crudely scolded those whose opinions differ from his by claiming that they call their opponents names and yet in the same comment repeatedly used that ludicrous "skippy" name for them. Hey Ira, yell up from your mom's basement and ask her what HYPOCRISY means.


You must be new here. Uncle Ira calla everyone Skippy, whether he agrees with them or not.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Jun 30, 2014
Jesus asked.
Socialists don't ask. They put a gun to your head.

So what happens when somebody decides to say no to Jesus or his followers? I'm pretty sure you burn for that.

Nothing, according to atheists.
If one believes Jesus is the son of God, why should He ask? Why not use His power to force you to His will?
God allows people to choose with the hope they will choose well. And, like Paul, one can eventually see the light and change their minds.
Socialists allow no choice. If you don't 'see the socialist light', socialists excommunicate (murder).
Doiea
Jun 30, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Doiea
Jun 30, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2014
They murdered many black people, which they didn't want to serve as a slaves or to accept Christianity.


Muslims and other African blacks enslaved millions.
It was a British Christian politician who fought and obtained a ban on the slave trade and emancipated slaves in the British Empire.
It was US Christians and the Republican party that emancipated and freed black slaves in the US.
It was the Democrats ('liberals') that opposed civil rights in the 1960s.
ryggesogn2
1.8 / 5 (5) Jun 30, 2014
error
ryggesogn2
1 / 5 (4) Jul 01, 2014
"But philosophically, the progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century had roots in German philosophy ( Hegel and Nietzsche were big favorites) and German public administration ( Woodrow Wilson's open reverence for Bismarck was typical among progressives). To simplify, progressive intellectuals were passionate advocates of rule by disinterested experts led by a strong unifying leader. They were in favor of using the state to mold social institutions in the interests of the collective. They thought that individualism and the Constitution were both outmoded. "
"It is that core philosophy extolling the urge to mold society that still animates progressives today—a mind-set that produces the shutdown of debate and growing intolerance that we are witnessing in today's America. "
http://webcache.g...04170419