BBC Breakfast Set Report: The Day Of The Doctor

Liberal Uniqueness, Conservative False Consensus, And Public Impressions Of The Tea Party and Political Parties

I tend to be skeptical of scientific and psychological studies which attempt to describe conservatives or liberals as a group, but if this study is valid maybe that is because I suffer from the common liberal misconception of false uniqueness. A study in Psychological Science asked participants to answer whether they agreed with both political and non-political questions, and to indicate whether they thought people with similar political views would agree.

Liberals showed what the researchers call “truly false uniqueness,” perceiving their beliefs as more divergent from the beliefs of other liberals than they actually were. Moderates and conservatives, on the other hand, showed evidence of “truly false consensus,” perceiving their beliefs to be more similar to those of other members of their political group than they actually were.

Data from a second study suggest that the relationship is driven by participants’ desire to feel unique: Liberals reported a stronger desire for uniqueness than did moderates or conservatives.

Surprisingly, these trends even emerged among nonpolitical judgments, such as preference for coffee: Liberals believed their preferences were more different from those of other liberals than they actually were, while conservatives believed their preferences were more similar to those of other conservatives than they actually were.

In a somewhat related story, The Fix discussed finding from a recent poll indicating that, even if there the above study is true that there is not a  consensus among conservatives, many people see the Tea Party as essentially being the same as the Republican Party.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows an increasing number of Americans think the tea party has too much influence in today’s GOP. While 23 percent said the tea party had too much influence in a March 2010 WaPo-ABC poll, and 35 percent said the same in a Pew poll early last month, 43 percent now say it has too much sway.

Among pivotal moderate voters, well more than half (56 percent) say the tea party has too much influence on the GOP, while just 22 percent say it has about the right amount.

Perhaps more illustrative: views of the Republican Party’s ideological leaning are essentially the same as the tea party.

Forty percent say the tea party is too conservative — about the same number as say the Republican Party is too conservative (43 percent). While 36 percent of Americans say the views of the GOP are “about right,” 35 percent say the same of the tea party.

Views of the GOP and the tea party are virtually the same across all demographics. Fifty-five percent of moderates say the GOP is too conservative, versus 52 percent who say the same of the tea party.

In other words, if the tea party has moved the GOP to the right — and it has — it has done so to such an extent they are now viewed as ideologically very similar.

While the Tea Party essentially represents the extreme right wing base of the Republican Party, and not all Republicans, finding such a view in the poll is understandable considering that the far right wing is now driving the Republican agenda.

The study also found comparable numbers who found the Democratic Party to be too liberal. It would be interesting if the poll further broke down attitudes by issue. Polls have frequently found that people who do not identify with either liberals or Democrats frequently agree with the liberal position regardless of their self-identified ideology.