Thursday, July 03, 2008

Are Liberals More Open-Minded Than Conservatives?

Self-confessed hater, Jonathan Chait says below that they are. I add some comments below that -- JR
In a paper they wrote about the ideological leanings of blog readers and news-watchers, Henry Farrell, Eric Lawrence and John Sides find that conservatives tend to read only conservative blogs, while most liberals read only left-leaning blogs. That's not a huge surprise. They also find this:
Those few people who read both left wing and right wing blogs are considerably more likely to be left wing themselves; interpret this as you like.

I'm going to go ahead and interpet it: Liberals are more interested in listening to opposing points of view than are conservatives. Now, most people in general do not like listening to opposing views, but those who do are overwhelmingly on the left. I'm going to wallow in smug self-satisfaction for a few minutes, then go over to the Corner to see if anybody has a rebuttal.


Chait is quoting some research about blog readers that appeared on the Leftist "Crooked Timber" website. Even if the findings concerned are sound, therefore, they tell us nothing about the population at large. From blog readership alone, for instance, we can tell that blog readers are far from typical. Leftist blogs in general have far higher readership than conservative blogs. Kos readership completely dwarfs Instapundit readership, for instance. Most blog readers are Leftist but that is not true of the population at large.

So what IS true of the population at large? Are people in general more open-minded if they are Leftist? That is a very old question among political psychologists -- going back to the book The open and closed mind by Milton Rokeach, published in 1960. Rokeach constructed a questionnaire (the D or "Dogmatism" scale) to measure open mindedness. He allowed for it being equally prevalent on both sides of politics but found some tendency for Leftists to be more open-minded.

As it happens, by far the most prolific author of the many subsequent papers in the academic journals on the subject was myself. You can access all my papers on the subject here.

What I found at the end of many years of research was that the "D" scale really measured nothing at all. Since the topic was a very popular one within political psychology, it seems reasonable to say that the best brains on the subject have so far been unable to produce a definitive conclusion. In the circumstances, I think we have to treat Mr Chait's assertions as mere unsubstantiated opinion.