Sometimes we try to explain why it is that fear seems to be more a feature of how conservatives seem to think of everything than it is of liberal or left-wing thinking. They fear big government. If science makes a breakthrough of some sort or other, conservatives inevitably fear that or its being disruptive. If in education changes are made that disrupt a narrow channel, conservatives feel that the whole system is crumbling. They are generally resistant new ideas and so on because, it seems, of fear. Well, it may be that explanation this may, in part, have been found by those conducted a study for the American Journal of Political Science. Some of the conclusions they arrived at were reopoted on in the Saturday edition of Salon.
A new study in the American Journal of Political Science looked at the relationship between fear and political ideology, and it found that people who experience higher levels of fear tend to be more politically conservative than those who are less predisposed to feeling afraid. While the researchers emphasized that their findings in no way suggest that every conservative is more fearful than every liberal, the study did identify a relationship between a fearful disposition and increased support for anti-immigrant and other segregationist policies.
One of the study’s co-authors warns that we should not get carried away with the idea that all conservative people are fearful.
It’s not that conservative people are more fearful; it’s that fearful people are more conservative,” Rose McDermott, professor of Political Science at Brown University and co-author of the study, said in a press release.
The study does not, it has to be emphasized, suggest that it’s all in the genes.
As the study’s co-author Peter Hatemi, associate professor of Political Science, Microbiology and Biochemistry at PennState, told Chris Mooney at Mother Jones: “Nothing is all genes or all environment.” But together, these things make us who we are.
There is no reason for us to believe that if we are biologically predisposed to go in a certain direction, we must continue in that direction. Biology does not have the final say on which party you support or how one votes election day. Education, in its broadest sense, plays a huge role in the way we develop and evolve.
As we experience more of the world and gain exposure to different cultures, people who are different than ourselves can become, well, less scary, researchers say.
So rather than creating an immutable link between biology and ideology to forever bind us to a single party, the study actually suggests that people can change overtime, overcome their natural predispositions and maybe even come around to new political ideas.
The problem is that it is the natural predispositions that are nurtured.