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More on conservative vs liberal characteristics

  • August 12th, 2008



This post is from NCPA’s website, specifically to wind up Jordan, who has commented on my earlier posts on the debate about the stereotypical characteristics of the left and the right.

In his new book, "Makers and Takers,"  Peter Schweizer, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and Stanford University,  explores why conservatives work harder, feel happier, have closer families, take fewer drugs, give more generously, value honesty more, are less materialistic and envious, whine less and even hug their children more than liberals.

Using the latest data and research, Schweizer shows that the claims that conservatives are mean-spirited, greedy, selfish malcontents with authoritarian tendencies are a myth.  Instead, he finds that many of these claims actually apply more to liberals than to conservatives. 

For example:

  • Some 71 percent of conservatives say you have an obligation to care for a seriously injured spouse or parent versus less than half (46 percent) of liberals.
  • Conservatives have a better work ethic and are much less likely to call in sick than their liberal counterparts.
  • Liberals are two and a half times more likely to be resentful of others’ success and 50 percent more likely to be jealous of other people’s good luck.
  • Liberals are two times more likely to say it is okay to cheat the government out of welfare money you don’t deserve.
  • Some 55 percent of conservatives say they get satisfaction from putting someone else’s happiness ahead of their own, versus only 20 percent of liberals.
  • Those who are "very liberal" are three times more likely than conservatives to throw things when they get angry.

Schweizer argues that the failure lies in modern liberal ideas, which foster a self-centered, "if it feels good do it" attitude that leads liberals to outsource their responsibilities to the government and focus instead on themselves and their own desires. 

Source: Peter Schweizer, "Makers and Takers," Doubleday, June 3, 2008.



  • Colleen
  • August 12th, 2008
  • 9:23 am

My first reaction (without reading the whole paper and deciding on the validity, or otherwise, of this specific research paper) is that conservatives are probably more devious and much more likely to lie to promote themselves as being what they would see as socially responsible types. Perhaps liberals are just more honest! (I mean we all know how extremely easy it is to answer questionnaires to give the answer that puts us in a better light.


Interesting stuff, Stephen.

I take it from your post that you therefore self-describe your politics as “conservative” rather than in any way “liberal”. And I take it from this that you simply and clearly identify “liberal” as meaning “leftwing” and “conservative” as many “rightwing”.

Others of us argue that these labels are a bit more complicated than this. But this is still useful nonetheless.



[As I’m sure you know Bryce, the US usage now equates liberal to left. I describe my position as classical liberal. The US usage equating conservative to right is less pervasive, but without having read the book I do not know if its classifications are direclty comparable to New Zealand]

  • Matty Smith
  • August 14th, 2008
  • 9:43 pm

This sort of research is uniformly ridiculous if you ask me. Last year a group of social science researchers came out with a study suggesting that ‘Conservatives’ find it much harder to deal with complex ideas and situations (which, intuitively, makes sense), but I still would not give it any serious consideration. The first thing that I wonder is always how something like ‘Liberal’ or ‘Conservative’ is defined. ‘Liberalism’ and ‘Conservativism’ are hardly monolithic, easily pinned-down worldviews.

I disagree with Schweisser’s claim that ‘Liberals’ are uniformly more self-centred than Conservatives too. What does he even mean in claiming that? Plenty of doctrinaire liberalism is altruistic to a fault!

This is a load of drek, Stephen Franks, and I imagine you know that. Are you just trying to wind people up?

  • Matty Smith
  • August 14th, 2008
  • 9:57 pm

The first 1-star review of Schweisser’s book offers a pretty good fisking of his methodology. Here it is, with critical responses:

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