The right side

Kevin Lewis

April 17, 2015

Winning the victim status can open conflicting groups to reconciliation: Evidence from the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Ilanit SimanTov-Nachlieli, Nurit Shnabel & Samer Halabi
European Journal of Social Psychology, March 2015, Pages 139–145

Members of conflicting groups often engage in ‘competitive victimhood’, that is, they are motivated to gain acknowledgment that their ingroup is the conflict's ‘true’ victim. The present study found that compared with a control group, Israeli Jews and Palestinians reassured that their ingroup had won the victim status showed increased willingness to reconcile with the outgroup and held less pessimistic, fatalistic views of the conflict. Moreover, for members of the stronger party — Israeli Jews — winning the victim status also led to increased group efficacy and consequent readiness to take action toward resolution. These findings extend previous theorizing about the positive effects of addressing group members' need for acknowledgement of their victimization.


Running for your life, in context: Are rightists always less likely to consider fleeing their country when fearing future events?

Ruthie Pliskin, Gal Sheppes & Eran Halperin
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, forthcoming

Fear is a powerful motivator for the classic fight or flight response. Under extreme social and political circumstances, fear may lead people to emigrate from their land to protect themselves and their families. While ideology is related to differences in behavioral fear reactivity, little is known about how it moderates the effect of fear on flight intentions. In a large experimental study (N = 243), we examined our hypothesis that this moderating effect is context-dependent, such that the context's relation to the ideology determines its influence. In ideologically-irrelevant contexts, because rightists (versus leftists) are assumed to be more behaviorally reactive to fear, their willingness to consider flight should be more affected. In ideologically-relevant intergroup contexts, however, rightist ideology provides clear reaction guidelines ruling out flight, and therefore fear should have a weaker effect on rightists’ (versus leftists') flight tendencies. Our findings supported these predictions, and their significance is discussed.


Conservatives report, but liberals display, greater happiness

Sean Wojcik et al.
Science, 13 March 2015, Pages 1243-1246

Research suggesting that political conservatives are happier than political liberals has relied exclusively on self-report measures of subjective well-being. We show that this finding is fully mediated by conservatives’ self-enhancing style of self-report (study 1; N = 1433) and then describe three studies drawing from “big data” sources to assess liberal-conservative differences in happiness-related behavior (studies 2 to 4; N = 4936). Relative to conservatives, liberals more frequently used positive emotional language in their speech and smiled more intensely and genuinely in photographs. Our results were consistent across large samples of online survey takers, U.S. politicians, Twitter users, and LinkedIn users. Our findings illustrate the nuanced relationship between political ideology, self-enhancement, and happiness and illuminate the contradictory ways that happiness differences can manifest across behavior and self-reports.


The politics of time: Conservatives differentially reference the past and liberals differentially reference the future

Michael Robinson et al.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, forthcoming

Conservatives are thought to favor certainty and value tradition (suggesting a focus on the past), whereas liberals are thought to favor change (suggesting a focus on the future), even when it is associated with some degree of uncertainty. On this basis, two studies contrasted references to the past versus the future in language usage. Study 1 analyzed 600 texts from conservative and liberal websites. After adjusting for normative differences, a cross-over interaction was obtained: Conservative posts referenced the past to a greater extent than the future and liberal posts referenced the future more than the past. A conceptually parallel cross-over interaction was obtained in Study 2, which analyzed 145 State of the Union addresses. The temporal orientation of conservatives and liberals, then, appears qualitatively different.


Ideological Structure and Consistency in the Age of Polarization

Caitlin Jewitt & Paul Goren
American Politics Research, forthcoming

Decades of research establish that political elites hold more ideologically consistent and structured policy preferences than ordinary citizens. Since the late 1970s, American politics, at the elite level, has become increasingly polarized and changes in the news media have made it easier for citizens to find news catering to their ideological tastes. We capitalize on these developments to examine whether ideologically engaged citizens – those who hold strong ideological identities, who are politically informed, and who participate actively in public affairs – match elites in ideological consistency and structure during the age of polarization. We test this hypothesis by applying correlation and measurement modeling techniques to data from multiple National Election Study and Convention Delegate Study surveys. We find that (a) ideologically engaged masses hold more tightly organized opinions than the less engaged every year, but lagged elites by a wide margin in 1980; (b) convention delegates manifest impressive levels of consistency every year; (c) by 1992 engaged citizens had caught up to political elites; and (d) ideological consistency increased substantially over time in the mass public, but only among the most ideologically engaged.


Constituents of political cognition: Race, party politics, and the alliance detection system

David Pietraszewski et al.
Cognition, July 2015, Pages 24–39

Research suggests that the mind contains a set of adaptations for detecting alliances: an alliance detection system, which monitors for, encodes, and stores alliance information and then modifies the activation of stored alliance categories according to how likely they will predict behavior within a particular social interaction. Previous studies have established the activation of this system when exposed to explicit competition or cooperation between individuals. In the current studies we examine if shared political opinions produce these same effects. In particular, (1) if participants will spontaneously categorize individuals according to the parties they support, even when explicit cooperation and antagonism are absent, and (2) if party support is sufficiently powerful to decrease participants’ categorization by an orthogonal but typically-diagnostic alliance cue (in this case the target’s race). Evidence was found for both: Participants spontaneously and implicitly kept track of who supported which party, and when party cross-cut race — such that the race of targets was not predictive of party support — categorization by race was dramatically reduced. To verify that these results reflected the operation of a cognitive system for modifying the activation of alliance categories, and not just socially-relevant categories in general, an identical set of studies was also conducted with in which party was either crossed with sex or age (neither of which is predicted to be primarily an alliance category). As predicted, categorization by party occurred to the same degree, and there was no reduction in either categorization by sex or by age. All effects were replicated across two sets of between-subjects conditions. These studies provide the first direct empirical evidence that party politics engages the mind’s systems for detecting alliances and establish two important social categorization phenomena: (1) that categorization by age is, like sex, not affected by alliance information and (2) that political contexts can reduce the degree to which individuals are represented in terms of their race.


Expressive Partisanship: Campaign Involvement, Political Emotion, and Partisan Identity

Leonie Huddy, Lilliana Mason & Lene Aarøe
American Political Science Review, February 2015, Pages 1-17

Party identification is central to the study of American political behavior, yet there remains disagreement over whether it is largely instrumental or expressive in nature. We draw on social identity theory to develop the expressive model and conduct four studies to compare it to an instrumental explanation of campaign involvement. We find strong support for the expressive model: a multi-item partisan identity scale better accounts for campaign activity than a strong stance on subjectively important policy issues, the strength of ideological self-placement, or a measure of ideological identity. A series of experiments underscore the power of partisan identity to generate action-oriented emotions that drive campaign activity. Strongly identified partisans feel angrier than weaker partisans when threatened with electoral loss and more positive when reassured of victory. In contrast, those who hold a strong and ideologically consistent position on issues are no more aroused emotionally than others by party threats or reassurances. In addition, threat and reassurance to the party's status arouse greater anger and enthusiasm among partisans than does a threatened loss or victory on central policy issues. Our findings underscore the power of an expressive partisan identity to drive campaign involvement and generate strong emotional reactions to ongoing campaign events.


The Political Context of Science in the United States: Public Acceptance of Evidence-Based Policy and Science Funding

Gordon Gauchat
Social Forces, forthcoming

In recent years, professional science organizations in the United States, including the National Research Council, National Institutes of Health, and National Science Foundation, have expressed concern about waning policy influence, declining government funding, and the growing politicization of science. Given this background, a number of theoretical questions motivate this study. First, what is the political context of scientific authority in the contemporary United States? More specifically, how can we best understand the association between political ideology and public perceptions of science in the current polarized environment? Using data from the National Science Foundation's Survey of Public Attitudes Toward and Understanding of Science and Technology (2006–2012), this study finds that the American public is culturally and politically divided in its support for the intersection of science and the state. Various models of political and cultural polarization are tested. Overall, ideological challenges to the cultural authority of science cannot be reduced to left-right political polarization or to conservative religious beliefs. Instead, skepticism on the political right is multifold, involving distinct modes of thought and concerns about the institutional ties between science and the state.


Seeking politically compatible neighbors? The role of neighborhood partisan composition in residential sorting

James Gimpel & Iris Hui
Political Geography, forthcoming

High rates of internal migration throughout the United States offer opportunities to examine the factors underlying residential selection and neighborhood choice. We devise a survey experiment where respondents are shown photographs of properties and information about the local socioeconomic environment. By providing and varying additional information about the neighborhood partisan composition, our survey experiment explores how political information affects property evaluation. We find that the same property will be evaluated more favorably by partisans when they learn that it is situated in a predominantly co-partisan neighborhood. A second experiment examines how people make judgments about neighborhood partisan composition in the absence of readily available information. We learn that correct inferences about the politics of a locale can be drawn from non-political information about it, even without exposure to direct information about its partisan balance.


Recession Resonance: How Evangelical Megachurch Pastors Promoted Fiscal Conservatism in the Aftermath of the 2008 Financial Crash

Stephanie Martin
Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Spring 2015, Pages 39-77

Jesus often spoke about the Christian obligation to provide for the poor. Yet, public opinion polls and scholarly studies consistently find that conservative Protestant voters favor economic policies of low taxes, limited state spending on welfare, and personal responsibility for financial success. This study uses evangelical sermons as a means for analyzing how conservative economic discourse, defined as a preference for limited government interference in market activities, proliferated inside American megachurches over four years following the 2008 recession. It also examines how pastors of large congregations rhetorically justified support for policies that scholars have shown work against the economic interests of middle-class and poor citizens alike. The study found that when megachurch pastors speak about economic issues, they deploy language and arguments that emphasize American economic providence and the need for individuals to take personal responsibility for financial outcomes, premises that afforded pastors the discursive space necessary for making claims about the superiority of private charity over public welfare. These findings suggest that, contrary to arguments that situate the public discourse of conservative Protestants as being mostly about social issues, there is inside evangelicalism a robust conversation about financial questions. This economic discourse is strikingly similar to that of nonreligious conservatives in the United States, a confluence that works to create a rhetorical resonance among the base constituencies inside the Republican Party and so fortify its ideological appeal and strength.


Explaining the Appeal of Populist Right-Wing Parties in Times of Economic Prosperity

Frank Mols & Jolanda Jetten
Political Psychology, forthcoming

The assumption that populist right-wing parties (PRWPs) thrive when the economy slows down is remarkably pervasive. What is often neglected is evidence showing PRWPs can thrive in times of economic prosperity. To examine this, we conducted an experiment in which participants were exposed to different appraisals of the future of the national economy and were subsequently asked to evaluate an anti-immigration speech (Study 1). Results showed stronger anti-immigrant sentiments when the national economy was presented as prospering rather than contracting. We then analyzed speeches by PRWP leaders who secured electoral victories during economic prosperity (Study 2) and found that these leaders encourage a sense of injustice and victimhood by portraying ordinary citizens as the victim of an alliance between powerful groups (the elite) and less powerful groups (refugees, immigrants, minorities). More specifically, Study 2 showed that PRWP leaders are crafty identity entrepreneurs who are able to turn objective relative gratification into perceived relative deprivation. We conclude that it is hence problematic to treat PRWP support as evidence of “resonance” with public sentiments and urge PRWP scholars interested in supply-side factors to engage with the social identity literature on leadership, followership, and social influence.


Size Matters: The Effects of Political Orientation, Majority Status, and Majority Size on Misperceptions of Public Opinion

Shira Dvir-Gvirsman
Public Opinion Quarterly, Spring 2015, Pages 1-27

According to cognitive research, members of a social majority are better than minority members at estimating the consensus, since the latter tend to overestimate the popularity of their opinion. These differences have been explained using the motivational reasoning model. The purpose of the current study is twofold: to verify that majority members indeed provide more accurate public consensus estimations and to test the effect of political orientation on this relation. Following the motivational reasoning model, it is suggested that proponents of right-wing ideology will overestimate support for their group, especially when in the minority, since they have a stronger reaction to political threat. The research involved three case studies. In the first, data from 33 surveys conducted over 10 years (N = 15,129) were analyzed using multilevel analysis. The results showed that (a) majority members are more accurate in gauging consensual opinions than minority members; (b) the gap in accuracy between majority and minority members increases with the size of the majority; and (c) those holding right-wing attitudes tend to overestimate their group size, more so when in the minority or when support for their opinion declines. The second case study analyzed data on four different issues, using a within-subject approach (N = 450). The findings were similar, with the exception of a nonsignificant effect for majority size. Finally, in the third case study, the causal mechanism suggested was supported by an experimental setting (N = 388). The results are discussed in light of the motivational reasoning model regarding information processing and ideology.


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