Why are Democratic voters more approving of compromise than Republicans?

Why are Democratic voters more approving of compromise than Republicans?
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At a time when political division is heightened and the parties in Washington are deeply polarized, it is worth asking whether there is any payoff for politicians to work together.

Will they be rewarded by their constituents for getting things done, balancing different interests for the public good and working across the aisle with civility and respect?

Or will they be punished for abandoning core principles, offering concessions to the other side and sitting down with people who the world so differently?

Political scientists like us view compromise as an essential feature of our bicameral, three-branched political system. Not everyone will agree that compromise on every issue at every time is a good thing. But it is essential if a democracy in a diverse society is to function, if laws are to be passed and policies set.

If compromise is so important to the functioning of our government, what can we say about how people – citizens – view compromise?

Compromise looks different to Ds and Rs

Our starting point is that not everyone views it the same way.

Pollsters have found that most voters support their elected officials compromising rather than sticking to principle when forced to make the choice. But among those who prefer sticking to principle, a disproportionate percentage are Republicans. Republicans, it seems, are more worried about their representatives being compromised, which they do not see as a good thing.

Democrats are more sanguine about compromise in government and considerably more likely to view the ability to compromise as a virtue when evaluating their representatives.

To illustrate: In a 2014 Pew survey, 64 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement, "I like elected officials who "make compromises with people they disagree with" rather than elected officials who "stick to their positions."

In a 2015 survey conducted for Al Jazeera America, when asked "What causes more problems in the federal government?" 71 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of Republicans chose "elected officials who are not willing to compromise" as opposed to "elected officials who are not willing to stand up for their principles."

This is a relationship that we have seen time and again in surveys that ask, in various ways and at various times, whether respondents approve of political compromise.

How do we explain this partisan difference?

Of course, Republicans and Democrats profess different beliefs, care about promoting different values and have different economic and political interests. But none of that would really explain why they would view political process differently.

Perhaps there is something in the DNA of Republicans and Democrats that leads them to view compromise differently?

The hidden role of uncertainty

Many studies have demonstrated that conservatives and liberals have different predispositions and traits, which might explain the Republican-Democratic difference given that partisanship and ideology overlap so much.

Psychologists have shown that conservatives, more than liberals, tend to be "rigid" in their thinking, prefer "purity" and "order," and view the world in black and white terms.

These psychological predispositions might explain why Republicans are less likely to approve of compromise than comparable Democrats.

But we argue that there is something else at work here, another way to think about the Republican/Democratic difference that consistently appears in surveys.

We look to the pioneering work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky for guidance. Kahneman and Tversky's "prospect theory" is based upon a simple notion: Under conditions of uncertainty, people weigh loss much more than gain when making assessments about the future. That is, when making decisions that entail risk, the fear of losing what one already has dominates the possibility of gaining more of what one wants.

How might this explain the difference between Democrats and Republicans in their view of compromise?

As a general proposition, conservatives believe in "conserving" the status quo and progressives have a friendlier view of change and "progress," and this difference in orientation is the predominant dynamic at work in politics.

So if Republicans, as conservatives, look at a particular political compromise as a loss from their present position, and Democrats, as progressives, tend to view it as a gain, prospect theory would predict that there should be a difference in how they respond to it.

In a recently published study, we tested whether this is the case and found evidence that prospect theory does indeed apply to the understanding of compromise.

When looking at an issue like the minimum wage, where the liberal position is to raise the wage and the conservative position is keep it the same, we found Democrats to be much more willing to compromise their position than Republicans, and to compromise further when asked how far to go.

But what about an issue like tax reform, where Republicans are pushing to bring down tax rates, as they did in last December's legislation, and Democrats are defending the status quo? This is a reversal of the logic that often prevails in politics.

Notably, our study found that on this issue, Republicans are just as likely to approve of compromise as Democrats. So on an issue where a compromise means that Republicans gain and Democrats lose, the partisan difference in attitudes toward compromise that we see so frequently goes away.

And since Republicans and Democrats tend to have a different philosophical orientation toward progress and change, this would explain the different orientation toward compromise that we see in the surveys discussed above.

Do our representatives have an ability to compromise? Could we return to a day where our leaders sit down together and resolve differences with give and take? Can we even imagine a contemporary minority leader to be like Everett Dirksen, who once famously said, "I am a man of fixed and unbending principle, and one of my principles is flexibility"?

We get there only if constituents give legislators the freedom to compromise. In an ideal world, we believe representatives would be rewarded – or at least not punished – because legislation includes a compromise solution.

We hope that our insight helps political strategists to create that freedom. By shaping interpretations of loss and gain, we believe they can – even Republicans, who must face a more resistant constituency.


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Jun 29, 2018
What a crock!!! Leave your personal politics out of your science. Democrats do not accept compromises unless they create them and there is a hidden catch that only helps them. Remember. ALL political science professors are very left wing. They aren't capable of conducting a study without personal bias leading the study.

Jun 29, 2018
Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance (personified in progressives).

Jun 29, 2018
Ahahaaa that's a funny question
https://www.wease...-scotus/

-Or slappy maxie perhaps?
https://youtu.be/t8-qXuAwS7A

Jun 29, 2018
The main reason dems like compromise is because it's often the only way they can forward their radical agendas. For instance they introduce a gun control bill and demand compromise. Then they introduce another one and demand further compromise. Etc.

In this manner they whittle away at the 2nd amendment until nothing's left.

Jun 29, 2018
Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance (personified in progressives).


Compromising is another way of making deals with the devil. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Compromising is how we lost the right to creative works moving into the public domain. It is also how we lost so many rights and allowed the intelligence community unfettered access to our most intimate communications.

Jun 29, 2018
Compromise is not necessarily the surrender of your goals, but can also be the means of getting beyond what different people assume to be what they want/need to find other things that also do the job. Immediate versus long term, individual versus community. What you assume at one moment to be essential may not be what you really want, or as important as you may think then.

Jun 29, 2018
Compromise is necessary for living in a peaceful civil society. Intelligent people realize that they do not have monopoly on knowledge, they also realize that the other side has merit that needs to be addressed.

Extremisms on both sides are there own worst enemy.

Jun 29, 2018
I dare the nice professor to name one major compromise that was made during the Obama administration. Basically it was my way or the highway and executive orders.

Jun 29, 2018
I think it hilarious, so many just do Not understand. The whole Make America Great Again, the pushing for changes in tax law, changes in healthcare, changes in laws at the border and concerning immigrants of all kinds, the whole absolutely refuse to work with the other side, AT ALL, is NOT Democracy, it is not even what a Republic would be like, and this was specifically set up to be a Democratic Republic, as enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The United States of America was built to Specifically Not be a Kingdom, yet every one of Trump's recent actions portray someone trying to be King, a Republican Congress Cheering him on, and a SCOTUS that he is getting to stack just before the Mid-Terms.

With that in mind, look up the number of high end Republican Leaders that are leaving the Trump Party because they can no longer stomach their disgust at how he has trashed our Government System, with nothing to replace it, just wanton destruction in ignorance.

Jun 29, 2018
MR166, it was not a matter of My Way or the Highway, it was a matter (of record even, with a bestselling book about it) where Senator McConnell called a meeting in a restaurant during Pres. Obama's Inauguration, and decided that they would absolutely, 100% oppose ANYTHING that Pres. Obama would do. They 'Compromised and debated' for The ACA, adding poison pill legislation to it that they could then later point to and (try) to blame Obama for them. But, there is a very good record of that and the Dems had half of the amendment as the Repubs did on the ACA, and even though they had it to Their Liking, they voted against it to a person, on the Basis of Denying Obama a 'Win'.

They have tried for nearly 10 years now (and continuing) to make Obama a One Term President.

Yet if Obama had acted like Trump and been Mr Mean Tweet Racist Rabble Rouser, he would have been thrown out of Office. Yet here is 'Murica allowing this man of extreme prevarication carte blanc without a blink.

Jun 30, 2018
The Latin phrase for Mob Rule does not occur in COTUS or BoR.

The Founding Fathers were well read of the Classics to have read Aristotle on democracy in Politics IV (1294be). Only the tyrants, the Forty Tyrants, practiced majority rule, while the citizens elected volunteers through sortition, a lottery much as our jury selection.

Jun 30, 2018
Spoiled brats always want their way, and if their beliefs align with dogmatic puritanism, then it's their way or the highway. This is an anti-democratic approach and methods of limiting this behavior need to be mandated in order to preserve our Democracy.

Jun 30, 2018
Catastrophic sentiments about "politics".
If a road is damaged so it's not drivable, do you fix the road or launch a new aircraft carrier? Compromise is not always advisable. So often, very often, only one choice is right. Decent people, interested in the welfare of the public would not ask for compromise.
Why compromise, then?
Because "politics" is not about the welfare of the public. It's rich, powerful, unprincipled individuals using government to make themselves richer, then lying to the public and getting at least a dullard plurality to think it's "in their best interest". They'll fix a road, by throwing a fat contract to a crony! If they owe others, they won't fix the road and make up lies why they don't.
There's no philosophical reason for compromise, just a case of powerful, greedy individuals arranging scams. The people are not served by any perception that treats politicians as working for the public.

Jun 30, 2018
I'm a conservative, and I'm all for change and progress. That's why I voted for Trump, and he's doing it!

Jun 30, 2018
A loaded title and content with a biased point-of-view, sources & assumptions.
The repeated use of such blatant tactics has a long history......
.
.
and are effective only on those who ignore or forget that.

Jun 30, 2018
@MR166

Romneycare was a republican proposal, The Democrats wanted, and still want, single-payer national healthcare, but the Republicans wanted Romneycare.

Then they got it, and now they call it Obamacare and act like they never wanted it at all.

Jul 01, 2018
Since you altright fairytails know in advance what these articles will conclude? Or, to be more accurate, you have decided in advance of reading the material what conclusions you will be declaiming in fulminating anguish.

Why do you even bother to read them? Look at all the time this site takes away from your enjoying watching goat porn!

You trumpetstiltskin sock-puppets are rabid curs. Constantly returning to lick up your own vomit.

Your masters are monitoring. Just as pimp putin was monitoring his whore trump at his NY crib.

The monitors are concerned that you gullible stupes will be contaminated by ideas and ideals in the articles on this site.

Careful or you will loose your certification for officially approved politically correct ideological purity.

Losing your standing as a pure aryan quisling? Means they'll have to remove your fasces-axis brand from your rump. By abrading it off.

You'll eat standing up & sleep lying face down for weeks.

Jul 01, 2018
Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance (personified in progressives).
A less-than-majority who won't compromise is failure waiting to happen. Enjoy.

Jul 02, 2018
Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance (personified in progressives).
A less-than-majority who won't compromise is failure waiting to happen. Enjoy.
Decades of compromise is why we're in the mess we're in. No more.

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