New research discovers an area that conservatives and liberals agree on is the importance of working hard in order to succeed. Although researchers found a divide among political parties on what could be considered a fair starting point, the idea that it takes hard work to succeed permeates American society.
Specifically, liberals and Democrats are far more inclined than conservatives and Republicans to believe in the importance of equity; the notion that some groups may need different opportunities to succeed based on their starting point, so that all groups have the same levels of success.
But when it comes to proportionality — the idea that effort determines success — the researchers found a much smaller political divide.
The paper appears in Social Psychological and Personality Sciences. The paper’s senior author, Dr. Jeff Niederdeppe, is an associate professor of communication at Cornell University.
“This speaks to why we see so much value in American society placed on picking yourself up by your bootstraps to overcome any obstacle,” said first author Dr. Christofer Skurka.
“Notions of meritocracy and what is sometimes called the ‘Protestant work ethic’ are really interwoven into the American fabric, almost regardless of a person’s political orientation.”
In the study, around 3,000 participants from the United States filled out a 42-item questionnaire.
The survey was designed to rate the extent to which a participant believed different circumstances impact moral judgments. For example, “Whether or not someone showed a lack of respect for authority.” The form also ranked how individuals responded to statements such as, “Respect for authority is something all children need to learn.”
Participants reported their political views and party affiliations, as well as their gender, age, education, race and ethnicity.
The investigators found that people on the political left care much more about equity than those on the right. This finding may explain why liberals are more likely to support policies such as affirmative action and public assistance, which aim to correct imbalances.
The study also found that while conservatives generally care more about proportionality than liberals do, liberals also value it highly.
Understanding what contributes to concepts of fairness can help policymakers frame conversations in terms that will resonate across different groups.
“There’s quite a bit of political polarization that we see around public policy, and we often see political partisans talking past each other,” Skurka said.
“So, by understanding the different moral foundations on which these partisans base their moral judgments, we can better understand why they support certain kinds of initiatives and not others, and how we might be able to rally support for different initiatives.”
Source: Cornell University