Settled Science: Liberals More Closed-Minded and Intolerant Than Conservatives

The conventional wisdom is that conservatives are closed-minded, only listen to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, and are intolerant. There’s some very dodgy, but popular (with the left) social science that purports to back up this convenient narrative.

I’ve been sitting on an interesting piece of social science that came across the transom that is freshly relevant in the wake of the Covington Catholic school disgrace (the media/left disgrace—not the school or its students). The fall 2018 issue of the Journal of Social Media and Society published an article entitled “Social Networking Site as a Political Filtering Platform: Predicting the Act of Political Unfriending and Hiding.” While repeating some of the commonplace claims, the authors however find:

It is plausible that liberals are more likely to embrace cross- cutting ideas than conservatives, however, several studies found that liberals are more likely to block, unfriend, or hide contacts because of polarizing messages. Colleoni et al. (2014) argued that online networks of Democrats are actually more homogeneous than those of Republicans.  Even though liberals are known as open-minded to political information, such results suggest plausible evidence for liberals to unfriend others to achieve a homogeneous space. . .

There follows the usual highly dense statistical regression analysis of a sample population of social media users, in the usual thick prose of social scientists. But the adverse finding for the liberal narrative pokes out in several places despite the academic fog machine:

The more liberal an individual was, the more likely s/he was to unfriend their contacts. . . The findings differ from the general stereotype of liberals, who are known as much more open-minded than conservatives (Jost et al., 2003). However, Gervais (2015) found that liberals tend to express “their aversion to disagreeable incivility by reprimanding the uncivil perpetrator” while conservatives are more likely to “use incivility when exposed to the uncivil messages,” but they did not become emotionally angrier and did not critique the original messenger. [Translation: angry liberals call you names, while angry conservatives point out how stupid liberal arguments are.]  Gervais’ study can offer a plausible explanation that liberals tend to resolve their anger by unfriending. Also, Colleoni et al. (2014) found that liberal networks on Twitter were more homogeneous than conservative ones. Liberals may enact in the relationship dissociative behaviors to achieve a homogeneous sphere. . .

Translation: Liberal put their fingers in their ears. More:

Additionally, this study found that SNS users who reported a higher exposure to politically likeminded contents on their newsfeeds were likely to hide and unfriend others. This finding supported the idea of echo chambers on SNS, arguing a tendency of individuals to maintain homogeneous groups and affiliate with others who share similar political views by pruning out others who possess different political views.

Translation: Liberals read the NY Times and listen to NPR (as do conservatives), but don’t take in much conservative media. So when a conservative thought breaks in on their bubble, they freak and plug their digital ears. In other words, conservatives are made of tougher stuff.  (But you didn’t need social science to tell you that.) In the fact the study more or less admits as such a little later down:

Another possible explanation is that when an individual self-segregates within his/her politically homogeneous group, the more noticeable opposing views in their SNS feeds become, which force them to trim out cross-cutting views more often to reduce the chance of being confronted by a conflict.

There are also some findings that confirm what is often said about the “snowflake” generation:

Results revealed that the younger an individual is, the more likely s/he to hide and unfriend. . .  This study also found that a more educated an individual is, the more likely they are to unfriend.

So much for college as a means of appreciating or tolerating a diversity of viewpoints.

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