Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness

Date:
September 25, 2008
Source:
Northwestern University
Summary:
Political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness, a new study finds. Social scientists long have assumed that liberals are more rational and less fearful than conservatives, but new research finds that both groups view the world as "a dangerous place." To better understand the differences, researchers asked 128 socially active churchgoers: what if there were no God?

Political conservatives operate out of a fear of chaos and absence of order while political liberals operate out of a fear of emptiness, a new Northwestern University study finds.

“Social scientists long have assumed that liberals are more rational and less fearful than conservatives, but we find that both groups view the world as a dangerous place,” says Dan McAdams, study co-author and professor of human development and psychology at Northwestern University. “It’s just that their fears emerge differently.”

To better understand the differences between politically conservative Christian Americans and their liberal counterparts, McAdams and Northwestern University co-author Michelle Albaugh asked 128 socially active churchgoers this question: What if there were no God?

“Social scientists -- who are generally liberals -- have for decades done research to figure out what makes conservatives tick,” says McAdams.

Like the Northwestern study, the preponderance of research finds that conservatives fear unchecked human impulses that challenge the status quo. What McAdams and Northwestern researcher Albaugh also find is an underlying, but different, fear that drives liberals as well.

“Political conservatives envision a world without God in which baser human impulses go unchecked, social institutions (marriage, government, family) fall apart and chaos ensues,” says McAdams. Liberals, on the other hand, envision a world without God as barren, lifeless, devoid of color and reasons to live.

“Liberals see their faith as something that fills them up and, without it, they conjure up metaphors of emptiness, depletion and scarcity,” McAdams said. “While conservatives worry about societal collapse, liberals worry about a world without deep feelings and intense experiences.”

The study findings may shed light on why conservatives prefer more authoritarian leaders while liberals do not, he adds.

“What’s clear is that it is their political and not religious orientation that underlies the different psychologies of political conservatives and liberals,” says McAdams. After all, all of the adults he and Northwestern researcher Albaugh studied were members of churches, and their data suggested that most were socially involved, altruistic people.

The Northwestern University study sample included 128 highly religious and politically active Americans who attend church regularly. Although nationally conservatives are more likely to attend church than liberals, the Northwestern study was set up to sample equally from religious conservatives and religious liberals.

The researchers also observed gender differences, but said they did not interfere with the relationship between political orientation and narrative themes. The study is part of a larger project that looks at the relationships of faith, politics and life stories in well-functioning American adults. It is funded by the Foley Family Foundation in Milwaukee.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northwestern University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. McAdams et al. What if there were no God? Politically conservative and liberal Christians imagine their lives without faith. Journal of Research in Personality, 2008; DOI: 10.1016/j.jrp.2008.07.013

Cite This Page:

Northwestern University. "Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 September 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080924124549.htm>.
Northwestern University. (2008, September 25). Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080924124549.htm
Northwestern University. "Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080924124549.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

Small Reactors Could Be Future of Nuclear Energy

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the industry fell under intense scrutiny. Now, small underground nuclear power plants are being considered as the possible future of the nuclear energy. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Heartbleed Hack Leads To Arrest

Heartbleed Hack Leads To Arrest

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A 19-year-old computer science student has been arrested in relation to a data breach of 900 social insurance numbers from Canada's revenue agency. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins