Skip to content

You might be a conservative, if…

First there was that study that showed a correlation between being a conservative and low intelligence. Now this:

Are you very bothered by the sight of a cockroach, the smell of urine, coming into contact with a toilet seat in a public restroom, or accidentally drinking from a stranger’s soda can? If so, then you’re probably a political conservative, according to a recent study. In various surveys, researchers found that people who indicated more “disgust sensitivity” were significantly more likely to label themselves conservative, especially on issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Inbar, Y. et al., “Conservatives Are More Easily Disgusted Than Liberals,” Cognition & Emotion (June 2009).

What I want to know is, what if the things that disgust you are conservatives like Rove, Cheney, Coulter, Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly?

The same article in the Boston Globe also talks about a study that tests the Wall Street claim that the “best and the brightest” migrated to the hedge fund industry. Their conclusion? Not so much.



  1. Sammy wrote:

    Let me get this straight. Someone is trying to tie being disgusted by things that are normally pretty disgusting (normal for modern society, that is) to a political persuasion? Liberals don’t mind the smell of urine and dirty bathroom toilets? Who paid for this study, Sean Hannity?

    Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Yeah, ironic isn’t it?

    Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    There is a theory in cognitive psychology that states that the emotion of disgust is tied to ideas of morality. The idea is similar to the theories around implicit associations, which is the idea that you might unconsciously associate groups of people with certain normative ideas (blacks-good, whites-bad, city-safe, suburb-dangerous, etc).

    As I understand it from the abstract, the authors conducted a survey and then experiments to discern whether a predisposition to feel disgust is related to self-reported political attitudes. As I interpret the study, people who are prone to express disgust to a wider variety of things, or express a higher level of disgust to these things, are more likely to describe themselves as politically conservative and more likely to hold more conservatives attitudes around political issues they associate with morality, specifically abortion and gay marriage.

    I’m not really surprised. The people I know who are die-hard homophobes have a visceral reaction to the idea of gay men (it’s always with gay men and not gay women – but that is probably a separate conversation). Show them a picture of two men holding hands or kissing and they want to throw up. In short, they are disgusted.

    Perhaps this is why anti-abortion people think that by showing pictures of aborted fetuses that people will somehow turn against abortion.

    Sunday, June 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Permalink
  4. This belongs under the category “anecdotes are not evidence:” I have a pretty strong aversion to disgusting stuff (I couldn’t take dissection during biology class), but I’m politically progressive on social topics.

    I’ve heard of the study that Starluna references, and I understand the basic logic. But I suspect the study is insufficiently refined, or that I’m even more of an oddball than I knew I was. 😉

    Monday, June 15, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    You have a good point Thought Dancer. Now that I think about it, many of my life sciences friends with whom I can have a lengthy conversation about things dissected or different methods of analyzing fecal matter are somewhat politically conservative, at least on economic issues.

    And my husband couldn’t stand it when I used watch the Discovery Channel shows of different surgeries. He’s probably more liberal than I am.

    Monday, June 15, 2009 at 9:16 am | Permalink
  6. starluna wrote:

    Although, what I think this study is focused on is the connection between these visceral reactions and views of morality. The abstract did not mention any relationship between disgust sensitivity and being politically liberal. So, it’s possible that the political liberals have varying levels of disgust sensitivity but political conservatives are more likely to have higher levels of disgust sensitivity.

    Monday, June 15, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink
  7. Starluna, now you’re getting me thinking. The issue isn’t the sensitivity itself, but how much it bugs one later… how much it gets into one’s head and won’t let go.

    I can be thoroughly disgusted, and in 10 – 15 minutes be back to normal. The idea of whatever disgusted me won’t be pleasant later, but the visceral reaction will also not repeat itself. From what I have seen of conservatives who feel “disgust,” they are getting that first experience reaction again.

    So maybe as a liberal what I am is just not as sensitive as a conservative… oh, now isn’t that a lovely bit of irony. 😉

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 3:10 am | Permalink
  8. Sammy wrote:

    Every time I hear or read “a recent study shows…” my first question is, “Who paid for the study?”

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 9:38 am | Permalink
  9. Iron Knee wrote:

    So, do you bother to look up the study and see who paid for it? Or are you just saying this to dismiss studies that you don’t like?

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  10. Sammy wrote:

    No, I’m cynical about all studies. How many “studies” have you seen that directly contradict previous studies? If possible, I’ll try to find the source, if it’s something that I actually care about.

    I don’t “dismiss” studies I don’t like, because I don’t have an agenda. I’m just loathe to quote a study that might back my point of view because all too often someone can probably find a contradicting study.

    Example: “Studies” show that lifting weights causes one’s body to burn calories for a longer period after the workout than does a comparable workout of pure cardio. However, “studies” also show that the opposite is true.

    So I was not contradicting the study you reference, but just being cynical in general, and not ready to take it as gospel truth. AND, if the study had shown the exact opposite I would feel no different.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink
  11. Iron Knee wrote:

    Fair enough. I admire you for being able to be cynical without being dismissive. In moderate doses, healthy cynicism is definitely healthy.

    Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink