Remember those kids in school who were whiny and insecure? As adults they’re probably Conservatives whereas the confident and self-reliant kids grew up to be Liberals. At least according to a 20 year personality study published in the Journal of Research Into Personality recently:
A few decades later, Block followed up with more surveys, looking again at personality, and this time at politics, too. The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with ambiguity.
The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.
Block admits in his paper that liberal Berkeley is not representative of the whole country. But within his sample, he says, the results hold. He reasons that insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.
In a society that values self-confidence and out-goingness, it’s a mostly flattering picture for liberals. It also runs contrary to the American stereotype of wimpy liberals and strong conservatives.
As always it’s important not to read too much into this even though it might be personally gratifying and amusing to do so. There’s more at play in determining one’s political leanings than how much of a crybaby you were as a kid and the folks behind the study even make mention of this:
Part of the answer is that personality is not the only factor that determines political leanings. For instance, there was a .27 correlation between being self-reliant in nursery school and being a liberal as an adult. Another way of saying it is that self-reliance predicts statistically about 7 per cent of the variance between kids who became liberal and those who became conservative. (If every self-reliant kid became a liberal and none became conservatives, it would predict 100 per cent of the variance). Seven per cent is fairly strong for social science, but it still leaves an awful lot of room for other influences, such as friends, family, education, personal experience and plain old intellect.
Still, it plays a role to a degree and I’m going to let it put a smile on my face just the same. What I found most interesting in the article, though, was word that a similar study with similar conclusions in 2003 resulted in a Congressional investigation into the researcher’s funding:
Of course, if you’re studying the psychology of politics, you shouldn’t be surprised to get a political reaction. Similar work by John T. Jost of Stanford and colleagues in 2003 drew a political backlash. The researchers reviewed 44 years worth of studies into the psychology of conservatism, and concluded that people who are dogmatic, fearful, intolerant of ambiguity and uncertainty, and who crave order and structure are more likely to gravitate to conservatism. Critics branded it the “conservatives are crazy” study and accused the authors of a political bias.
Hell, I’ve thought most Conservatives were crazy long before anyone put out a report that concluded as much. One only need listen to them for a short while to determine the truth of that statement.