by Beth Ellwood
February 18, 2021
A recent study of Americans found evidence to suggest that liberals are more tolerant toward conservatives than conservatives are toward liberals. The study further suggests that those who are more politically sophisticated are more ideologically intolerant. The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
In the field of intergroup relations, intolerance toward outgroups has been a well-explored topic. In particular, political ideology has been explored as a predictor of outgroup intolerance. As study authors Yoav Ganzach and Yaacov Schul report, the findings in this area have been mixed. Some researchers have suggested that conservatives tend to be more intolerant than liberals, while others have maintained that the two groups are equally intolerant of each other.
Among two large nationally representative samples, Ganzach and Schul tested for differences among liberals and conservatives in terms of ideological intolerance. The researchers additionally examined whether cognitive ability might play a role in ideological intolerance.
The first sample involved 972 respondents from the 1988 and 1989 General Social Surveys. Respondents self-reported their ideological views along a scale ranging from extremely liberal to extremely conservative. They also answered a series of questions about their attitudes toward liberals and conservatives. Negative attitudes toward the outgroup were considered an indicator of outgroup intolerance. Finally, subjects completed a verbal ability test as a measure of cognitive ability.
The analysis found that conservative ideology was linked to greater dislike for the outgroup compared to liberal ideology — suggesting that conservatives were more intolerant toward liberals than liberals were toward conservatives. This relationship between ideology and outgroup intolerance appeared to be influenced by extremism. Among both conservatives and liberals, extreme ideological views were linked to greater intolerance toward the outgroup.
Next, greater cognitive ability was linked to greater intolerance. “This overall positive relationship between cognitive ability and outgroup dislike stands in sharp contrast to the commonly held view that cognitive ability is negatively associated with outgroup dislike,” Ganzach and Schul say. The researchers say that one explanation for this new finding might be to do with how intolerance was measured. While their study specifically measured ideological intolerance, previous studies have examined prejudices like race-based intolerance.
Ganzach and Schul then replicated these findings among a more recent sample of voters in the US presidential elections of 2012 and 2016. This larger sample involved 4,768 respondents and included an additional measure of political sophistication.
The researchers found that both cognitive ability and political sophistication were linked to greater ideological intolerance. Notably, it was political sophistication that was more strongly linked to ideological intolerance — suggesting that political sophistication mediated the relationship between cognitive ability and ideological intolerance.
“High cognitive ability allows individuals more cognitive resources, making them better able to reason about their political ideology and justify it,” the authors explain. “From this perspective, cognitive ability influences ideological intolerance because those with higher cognitive ability are likely to have greater political sophistication than those with lower cognitive ability, and as a result they are more likely to rely on their ideology when forming attitudes toward the ideological outgroup, making the dissimilarity with the outgroup more salient.”
The researchers note that when comparing the data from the two samples, it appeared that outgroup dislike was much greater in the recent 2010s sample compared to the 1980s sample, most likely reflecting the increased polarization of American politics.
The researchers say that future studies should further explore the influence of ideological extremity. While their studies did not explore how extremism relates to greater intolerance, the authors suggest that extremism likely increases perceived dissimilarity between groups, which then leads to greater outgroup dislike.
The study, “Partisan Ideological Attitudes: Liberals Are Tolerant; the Intelligent Are Intolerant”, was authored by Yoav Ganzach and Yaacov Schul.
Thanks to: https://www.psypost.org