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Conservatives Are More Simple-Minded Than Liberals, Study Suggests

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockMay 5 2022, 12:27 UTC
Supporters of Trump were happier, but used less complex thought.

Supporters of Trump were happier, but used less complex thought. Image credit: Evan El-Amin/shutterstock.com

Conservatives are more simple-minded and happier than liberals, according to a new study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The study, conducted by Professor of Psychology Jo Ann Abe of Southern Connecticut State University, looked at Biden and Trump supporters just before the 2020 election. Abe asked 1,518 demographically diverse participants to write a narrative piece about the then upcoming election. They were also asked who they intended to vote for, as well as to rate how enthusiastic they were for those candidates, and were asked to rate themselves and the two Presidential candidates using the Ten-Item Personality Inventory.

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The piece of writing produced by the participants was then analyzed using three automated text analysis programs. One assessed level of complexity within the writing, while another assessed levels of positivity and negativity. The final program looked at the "levels of confidence, certainty, and conviction in a narrative", which was seen as a "linguistic indicator of categorical thinking".

"As expected, extremely enthusiastic Trump supporters used less cognitively complex and more confident language than both their less enthusiastic counterparts and Biden supporters," Abe wrote in the study. They also used more positive language than Biden supporters, who used more words associated with negative emotions (such as fear and anxiety). 

As well as this, the study found that Trump supporters who rated the President as trustworthy, but not Biden, thought more categorically and had higher levels of confidence and conviction in their narratives. Meanwhile, Biden voters who rated him as trustworthy used more cognitively complex and less confident language.

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Though the effect was less pronounced, Biden supporters who were enthusiastic about their candidate also scored lower on complexity and higher on categorical thinking, suggesting enthusiasm for candidates can cloud thinking around them. 

Abe believes the results of the study to be sound, though she says more study is needed to corroborate the findings around further elections.

"Although the results of this study are broadly consistent with the view that conservatives may be more simple-minded and happier than liberals," Abe concluded, "these findings need to be replicated using the same methodology and different sets of candidates during another election to demonstrate their generalizability."


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