Well I never would have expected this.....
To be “close-minded” is, according to the dictionary, to be “intolerant of the beliefs and opinions of others; stubbornly unreceptive to new ideas.” To be conservative and close-minded, according to popular portrayal, is a redundancy—a package deal that liberals can and do take for granted.
But University of Virginia Professor Jonathan Haidt’s new book The Righteous Mind doesn’t simply suggest that conservatives may not be as close-minded as they are portrayed. It proves that the opposite is the case, that conservatives understand their ideological opposite numbers far better than do liberals.
Haidt’s research asks individuals to answer questionnaires regarding their core moral beliefs—what sorts of values they consider sacred, which they would compromise on, and how much it would take to get them to make those compromises. By themselves, these exercises are interesting.
But Haidt’s research went one step further, asking self-indentified conservatives to answer those questionnaires as if they were liberals and for liberals to do the opposite. What Haidt found is that conservatives understand liberals’ moral values better than liberals understand where conservatives are coming from. Worse yet, liberals don’t know what they don’t know; they don’t understand how limited their knowledge of conservative values is. If anyone is close-minded here it’s not conservatives.
Republicans, on average, answered one more question correctly than Democrats (5.9 vs. 4.9 correct). These differences are partly a reflection of the demographics of the two groups; Republicans tend to be older, well educated and male, which are characteristics associated with political and economic knowledge. Still, even when these factors are held constant, Republicans do somewhat better than Democrats on the knowledge quiz.
Among the largest gaps comes over knowledge of who leads the U.S. Senate. About half (48%) of Republicans are able to identify Reid as the current majority leader, while only a third of Democrats can name their own party's Senate leader. More Republicans can name Reid (48%) than Steele (37%), the RNC chairman.
The one question in the survey in which Democrats slightly outperform Republicans is about the number of women now serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. Close to six-in-ten Democrats (58%) know that more than one woman serves on the high court, compared with 50% of Republicans. Though the Democratic Party is made up of more women than men, this finding does not appear driven mostly by gender. Republican men and women are about equally likely to answer this question correctly (about half each), while solid majorities of both Democratic men (60%) and women (57%) get this question right.
OK yeah- I admit it....I'm being just a tiny bit sarcastic. Based on interactions with Democrats on the net, neither survey is at all surprising.