Saturday, September 03, 2016

Republicans See Difference As Hierarchical

Republicans see the world as Hierarchical - that difference entails ranking into better and worse.  Democrats, by contrast, are more likely to see difference as just -- difference.

This is the finding of Jer Clifton, a doctoral student in positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

This is very helpful in addressing a puzzle in my own research on why people choose the neighborhoods that they do.  People who live in the dense, walkable, mixed-use streetcar suburbs close to the city love to talk about why they chose to live there, and are curious about why others choose otherwise.  They value the vibrant diversity of their neighborhoods.

Following Clifton's finding, it is not surprising that such places tend to be strongly Democratic.  But I have found that even the Republicans in the streetcar suburbs like to talk about and think about why they live there. They are usually conservative on one or two issues - pro-life Catholics predominating in the place I study - but otherwise they are like their neighbors in appreciating difference.

Likewise, Democrats in the spread-out, car-based, residential-only, one-class outer suburbs are an easy interview to get and conduct.

The bottleneck has been in getting Republicans in the car suburbs to even agree to an interview.  When they do agree, these interviews tend to be a little more tense than the others.  The clue that Clifton's finding gives is helpful:  suburban Republicans regard the question "why do you choose to Iive where you do, while others choose to live in a different kind of place?" as implicitly a question of whether their place, and their choice, is better or worse than the choices that other people make.

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