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New Research Suggests that Conservatives are More Likely to Believe Conspiracy Theories

A new study conducted by researchers at UCLA found that individuals with a conservative world view were more likely to believe conspiracy theories about potential threats and see dark forces at work that could endanger their well-being. Such fears make conservatives more suspicious of new public policy proposals and a changing social environment.

UCLA Newsroom: "The study found that people who were more conservative tended to have a higher “conspiracy mentality.”

UCLA Newsroom, Anthropoligy professor Daniel Fessler: “It appears that these different perspectives on the safeness or dangerousness of the world are intrinsic personality differences,” Fessler said. “And those perspectives have a lot to do with where people land on the political spectrum, how much they believe messages about danger and whether they tend to see dark forces at work."

Their study also supports earlier research done during the Obama Presidency and confirms that conservatives tend to hold a more pessimistic world view and are more suspicious of new public policy initiatives.

UCLA Newsroom: "Past research has established that people who hold conservative views on social issues, as well as on the roles of police and the military, generally believe that sticking to tried-and-true practices is a way to guard against a dangerous world. Meanwhile, those who are more liberal are more likely to feel that the broader environment is safe enough to allow for experimenting with the social status quo."

Their research supports the thesis of a new book by political scientists Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, called "Prius or Pickup" which discusses numerous studies with similar results. In their book they argue that fear is a "primal instinct" that colors our perception of the world. Liberals are more open to change than conservatives who are more comfortable with the familiarity of the past.

Vox interview with Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weile, by Ezra Klein: "Hetherington and Weiler call these worldviews, which express themselves in everything from policy preferences to parenting styles, “fixed” versus “fluid.” The fixed worldview “describes people who are warier of social and cultural change and hence more set in their ways, more suspicious of outsiders, and more comfortable with the familiar and predictable.” People with a fluid worldview, by contrast, “support changing social and cultural norms, are excited by things that are new and novel, and are open to, and welcoming of, people who look and sound different.”

Hetherington and Weile argue that this difference in how liberals and conservatives see the world has been co-opted by politicians like Donald Trump and new conservative media sources that spread conspiracy theories about the threats facing the nation. The President thrives in a dark and dangerous world in which climate change is a hoax, terrorists are sneaking across our southern border, voter fraud is rampant, Mexican immigrants are rapists and a secret cabal of "deep staters" seek to undermine his administration. Fox News, Limbaugh and Hannity then promote and expand on his delusions, feeding public distrust of science, government, and immigrants, among others.

Vox, Hetherington and Weile: "The simple fact is that Republican leaders more often traffic in falsehoods than Democratic leaders do — climate change denial, birtherism, suggesting voter fraud is rampant, and more. These are not positions of the conservative fringe. The president of the United States himself has embraced all these falsehoods. If Democratic leaders were similarly likely to push false narratives, more Democrats would believe them."

"Conservative media amplify these falsehoods. This is what links what leaders say and do to what the public believes. Liberals tend to rely on a range of liberal and mainstream news sources. Conservatives tend to rely on a much smaller number of highly ideological sources.... "

And those "ideological sources" realize that Donald Trump can only exist in a world where voters believe they are surrounded by dangers that threaten their well-being. Once you strip away the conspiracy theories, the falsehoods, what is left of this presidency?

Prius or Pickup is an excellent read, one of the most important books on US Politics of 2018.

By: Don Lam & Curated Content

#news #conspiracytheories #research

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