I've been watching a lot of comedy central lately and have been wondering why there does not appear to be a conservative equivalent, just as there is no popular liberal equivalent to conservative AM talk radio. Perhaps liberals value being funny more than conservatives?
To test this idea, I thought I'd look at the data from the Good Self Scale from yourmorals.org. In it, participants are asked how important it is to have various traits, and one of them happens to be "funny". If you look at the below graph, you'll see that liberals do indeed place a tiny bit more value on being funny, compared to others (p<.01 comparing liberals to non-liberals).
It is important to note that this does not mean that liberals are indeed funnier, but rather that they place a value on being funny. The results seem plausible given that the rest of the results conform to previous research (e.g. conservatives care about loyalty more and care about being more responsible). Some observations:
- All groups are above the midpoint (2.5) of the scale for all traits, except for libertarians and their valuation of being generous, outgoing, and sympathetic. Instead, libertarians score high on being intellectual and logical.
- Moderates actually score highest in terms of valuing fairness and honesty. A very interesting finding.
- Liberals, in addition to wanting to be funny, also want to be creative, kind, sympathetic, and almost as intellectual as libertarians.
- Conservatives value being responsible, loyal, and honest (comparable to moderates for honesty).
In all, these are fair descriptions of these ideological groups, and given that the other relationships are reasonable, I would conclude that it's also reasonable to say that liberals likely do place more value on being funny than other ideological groups. Whether they succeed or not is another question.
- Ravi Iyer
Lately, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have been having fun with Jon Kyl's bizarre response to an error he made on the senate floor in saying that 90% of what Planned Parenthood does is abortion. The real figure is 3% and his bizarre response was that his use of the 90% figure was "not intended to be a factual statement", which has become a new twitter meme.
In case you haven't seen it, here is a summary:
The interesting thing to me of this story was a bit on the Daily Show where Wyatt Cenac points out that "in his defense, he's only lying about something that he believes in. It's in service of a strongly held moral principle. He's not lying to get out of jury duty or be boastful." (at about 1:10 in the below clip)
While the defense was intended to be comical, many might see Cenac's explanation as a truly mitigating circumstance. Kyl likely believed what he was saying, given that an intentional lie would undoubtedly be revealed. At some point in our lives, many of us also believe in something so much that our perceptions of reality are altered. Many people do indeed believe that sometimes the ends justifies the means, and from our data, those people are actually more likely to be liberals (or libertarians). One might argue that our incursion into Libya, for many, is a case where the ends (saving civilian lives, increasing freedom) justifies the means (violence). In other examples, Democrats believe that the health care reform bill will improve access to health care, and also reduce the deficit. Republicans believe that reducing taxes on the wealthy will actually increase revenue. There are arguments to be made for either position, but an objective observer would probably believe neither of these claims and it seems likely that moral principles (Democrats believe in a social safety net & Republicans believe taxes on the wealthy are immoral) are shaping perceptions of reality, which is the definition of moral confabulation, when you believe in something so strongly, that you don't let objectivity get in your way.
- Ravi Iyer
ps. as if on queue, the Wall Street Journal published this perceptually skewed view of taxation, perhaps born out of their belief that higher taxes on the rich are immoral. This article, by Jeffrey Sachs, details the correct math. Of course, it is also possible that Sachs' view of the statistics is skewed by his own moral views.