What Reality are Trump People Living In?

If you are anything like me, you don’t quite understand what to make of the Trump phenomenon.  Sure Hillary is winning, but what is more interesting to me is that over a third of Americans still plan to vote for this guy.  Why?  I’m bored with demonizing Trump and Trump supporters.  I want to understand the world they are seeing because I don’t get it.

As luck would have it, I happen to be a researcher at Penn who studies the impact of primal world beliefs, which are beliefs about the nature of reality writ large such as “the world is fascinating.”  Primals are the most super simple, essential, and general beliefs we have.  As of a few months ago, we can now measure 28 primals (yay!).  To give away the results, 24 of them mostly collapse into three big ones (Safe, Enticing, and Alive) and these in turn collapse into 1 big one (Good, defined hedonistically).  Currently, I’m trying to publish all these measures and look at psychological correlates (super happy…lots of big effect sizes and highly significant findings… primals predict depression, wellbeing, life satisfaction, etc.), but I had some data on current politics and, in this season of absurdity, I thought some people might find it interesting.  I’m also learning how to report and conduct these analyses, so it’s good practice. What follows is a summary and an appendix with all the numbers.  Keep in mind that all findings below come from one online sample of 533 people [so place grain of salt here].  Eventually, I plan to publish a peer-reviewed journal article with much of this information.

What reality are Republicans and Democrats living in?

So I had this fantastic theory that Republicans would see the world as way more dangerous than Democrats.  I though that might explain Republicans’ “irrational” a) fear of criminals which manifests as interest in law and order and support for mandatory minimums, b) fear of ISIS, c) fear of Mexicans, d) fear of people coming to take their guns, e) fear of government, and f) fear of out-group members generally.  At their last convention, and indeed for every single Republican debate, it seemed like candidates were always trying to out-terrorize each other (“No, I understand the great peril we are in!”…”No, no.  I understand it better.”)

However, this theory was wrong.  True, Republicans see the world as slightly more dangerous, but way less than I thought.  It’s a small relationship.

Furthermore, both parties see the world as about more or less equally good, revolving around them, abundant, acceptable, beautiful (Dems were slightly higher), changing, pleasurable, improvable, improving (Dems were slightly higher), interesting, meaningful, needing them, fragile, understandable, and against them.  There were so many similarities!

Ok.  So where do they differ?  Republican reality differs from Democratic reality in 9 ways, 4 small, 4 medium, and 1 big.  Let’s get the small ones out of the way first.

  • On average, Democrats see the world as less competitive.  That is, on average, their honest opinion is that collaboration, and not competition, makes the world go round.  In turn, this would make sense of why Republicans tend to see Democrats as more naive “kum-by-ya-ists,” and Democrats tend to see Republicans as more merciless cutthroats.
  • On average, Republicans see the universe as more atomistic while Democrats tend to see the universe as more of an interconnected whole.  Perhaps this helps Clinton’s slogan of “Stronger Together” have traction among those with a worldview in which deep interconnection and cooperation is more of a felt reality.  Perhaps this allows the issue of climate change to find more fertile ground among Democrats.

I predicted the two above.  They make sense of Republicans emphasizing free markets and American exceptionalism, among other things.  I did not predict the two below:

  • On average, Dems see the world as more funny.  Republicans tend to think that funny things are fewer and farther between.  I wonder if this partly explains why virtually all comedians and entertainers are Democrats.
  • One of the primals I measured is what I call “Characterizable.”  Basically, do you think the world has an overall nature or not?  On average, Republicans tend to think it has a nature while Democrats do not.  Again, however, these are all fairly small differences.

Moving on to the 4 differences that are a bit bigger:

  • On average, Republicans see the world as more alive, which means they see the universe as more imbued with intention and that the world is interacting with them personally.  However, these sorts of views correlate with increased religiosity, so I’m not sure if seeing the world as alive is relevant to political views or just a side effect of religion.  My intuition says it’s probably more of a side effect, so I don’t talk about it as much in the analysis below.
  • On average, Republicans see the world as less worth exploring.  This is essentially a gut level sense of return on investment for the worthwhileness of exploring or learning more about any given thing, place, or person.  Democrats do not necessarily actually explore their worlds more; it just means that they think most everything is more likely to be worth exploring.
  • On average, Republicans see the world as more just.  Does the arc of life trend towards justice.  Does life find a way to reward those who do good and punish those who do bad?  Is the world a place where working hard and being nice pays off?  Republicans tend to say ‘Yes,’  and Democrats say ‘No.’

    Demi are top. Reps are bottom.

    Dems (top) tend to see reality as unfair and Republicans (bottom) tend to have the honest opinion that life will find ways to reward those who work hard and help others.

  • Finally, the second biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans live in a reality marked by decline, and Democrats think the world is getting better.  On the one hand, this makes sense of why such vague rhetoric as “We don’t win anymore” appeals to Republicans and not Democrats, because even though it’s a super vague statement, it corresponds to a primal world belief that distinguishes these groups.  On the other hand, this distinction between Reps and Dems might be to some degree an artifact of who’s in the White House.  I imagine that when Bush was in charge, Republicans might have seen the world as in less decline and Democrats’ views would have changed a bit too.  Still, I doubt this distinction would disappear.

All this, however, except for decline, is relatively small potatoes.  Let’s talk about the biggest difference, because it both makes sense and doesn’t make sense: hierarchical.  

hiear

Democrats are on top, and Republicans are below. As you can see, despite plenty of overlap between the two groups, there is a striking difference.

What the hell does “hierarchical” mean?  Out of all the primals we have identified, this one is the least intuitive.  For me, it was also super fun to see it “pop” in relation to politics because Hierarchical wasn’t related to depression, anxiety, optimism, curiosity, income, education, or really any of the other variables I looked at.

The “hierarchical” primal concerns the nature of differences.  Namely, does difference imply that something is better or worse?  For those who believe that reality is hierarchical, if two things are different that usually implies that one is better than the other.  Likewise, for those who see reality as nonhierarchical, differences are likely surface and meaningless distinctions and probably distractions.  Under the latter view, any attempt to organize the world into “better” or “worse” things will either fail or be inaccurate and superficial.  However, for folks who see the world as hierarchical, most things can be fairly usefully ranked and ordered from better or worse.  This includes objects, from knives to landscapes, and people, from individuals to ethnic groups.  The biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans, on average, see the world as more hierarchical, or, to put it a different way, Democrats gloss over differences.

Are Trump supporters particularly strange Republicans?  

In a nutshell, no.  Trump people, as opposed to old Cruz and Kasich people, as well as independents, are fairly similar on every primal except 4.  Trump supporters out-Republican their Republican peers by seeing the world as even more Alive, Just, and  Hierarchical.  Also, Trump people think the world isn’t changing quite as much.

just2

All Republicans/independents on top. Trump folks on the bottom.

So what does this all mean? 

I’ve been trying to wrap my head arounds what this means, but it is starting to make some sense.  I’d love input:

  • Those who see the world as hierarchical and just will tend to assume in small ways that successful people are better people.  This suggests susceptibility to infatuations with billionaires.
  • If we assume that the world is hierarchical and just, then political correctness appears foolish.  PC culture is a real problem because it glosses over differences that really matter.  This might explain a deep frustration on the Right about political correctness that the Left just doesn’t get.
  • I’ve often been confused by why Americans need to talk about their country like it’s the best country in the history of the world.  But, if we assume that the world is hierarchical and just, and America is the most powerful country in the world, then it stands to reason that America is also the best.  It would feel false to say, “America is unique” without also saying, “America is the best.”
  • If we assume that the world is hierarchical and just, then we will have more difficulty mixing with and including out-groups.  Obviously, hispanic or African American culture is different than the culture of small-town white America where, according to Haidt, sanctity concerns matter more.
  • Jon Haidt identifies 5 political values: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, & sanctity/degradation.  Democrats score higher on two–care and fairness–while Republicans score more equally on all of them.  It may be useful to understand how primals interact with these values.  For instance, if, like many Republicans, you see the world as more just, then pursuing fairness should be less of a priority.  Likewise, if you see the world as hierarchical, then it is natural to value authority and submit to it.  Indeed, investigating the relationship between the values and primals of political ideologies could be a fascinating line of research.
  • The difference between Dems and Reps regarding Worth Exploring may be merely a manifestation of the much bigger difference on Hierarchical.  For Dems, the tendency to assume that differences don’t speak to value may be a tendency to gloss over differences in how worth exploring things are too.  In turn, for Republicans, seeing the world through the lens of rankings and hierarchies can’t allow every thing to be equally interesting because some things got to be boring.
  • Finally, the very definition of conservatism entails conserving something.  This is not an urgent priority for someone who sees reality as improving.  But, if the world is going to the dogs, then we need to hold on to the more just hierarchy of yesterday.

Ok.  Pretending this makes sense for a second, where do these primals come from?  

We don’t know.  I speculate that they come from many sources, including religion and numerous life experiences.  But what seems promising for explaining Hierarchical is simply where one lives.  Ask yourself, if you wanted to design an intervention that encouraged people to see the world as less hierarchical, what would you do?  Well, we would want to expose people to many different types of people and things that were quite different from each other, but not necessarily better or worse.

Where better to do that than in cities?

With all the talk about red and blue states, we forget that the political divide in America is likely better described as the rural-urban divide.  Check out the map below of the 2012 presidential election results by county.  You will find, of course with plenty of exceptions, that rural areas are red and urban areas are blue.  For instance, Oregon is a reliably blue state, but what’s really happening is that a redder countryside surrounds Portland and Eugene.  In Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Erie, Pittsburgh, Scranton, Allentown, and Harrisburg are blue dots in a mostly red state.  In Texas, Dallas (up there on its own), Austin, San Antonio, Houston, and Beaumont are particularly striking.  This seems to hold for Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and others.  Of course, there are plenty of exceptions.  If I remember correctly, Oklahoma City is particularly conservative.

2012-usa-election-map-by-county-nyt

In other words, belief that the world is nonhierarchical could be a side-effect of urban life.

Could Democrats or Republicans use my data to help win this election or future elections?  

I think so, but should we?  Full disclosure: as a missionary kid who grew up overseas and is quite intercultural, I see the world as deeply nonhierarchical.  Adopting the lens of hierarchy does not come naturally to me, and of course I’m very much a fan of making everyone more like me.  Woohoo! Let’s do it!  Further, as a scientist, we’ve discovered no evidence so far that seeing the world as hierarchical helps or hurts wellbeing that much (though that’s not saying much… we’ve just started looking at this).

However, for a Democrat, I’m also a bit of an outlier on the belief that the world is just.  I tend to assume that life finds ways to reward those who work hard and do good.  As a scientist, I should note too that belief in a just world is the most studied primal to date.  It is connected to wellbeing, being more productive, being kinder to those around you, and numerous other good things.  Unfortunately, it’s also tied to blaming victims for their misfortunes, whether the victim is poor, sick, or disenfranchised.

What about Decline?  Way before I got into primals, and as a history super nerd (seriously friends, audiobooks and lectures on history are almost exclusively what I listen to in my spare time; I’m currently working through 3 books on medieval England), I have had a strong view that the world, in almost every way, is improving.  For example, Harvard’s Steven Pinker makes a case that violence has declined over human history.  Reasonable people can disagree, however, including Democrats like my wife, who happens to be much smarter than I am!

So, though I’m personally not down for changing Just beliefs, I could get excited about changing Declining and Hierarchical.  For the former, I would suggest that, in school, we study social history more and the history of those in power less.  Much of the improvements across the ages have been in such things as health, how we treat the mentally ill, women’s rights, human rights, legal systems, etc.  In my view, the facts speak for themselves (but that, I suppose, is how all of us think about all of our primals).

For Hierarchical, the big trick, as implied above, seems to me to be exposure.  One could seek to expose individuals to very different people, places, and things.  The logic being that this is why going to college, immersive overseas travel experiences like the Peace Corps, and moving to big cities tends to manufacture liberals (nothing new here).  These sorts of activities expose us to gays, jews, jesuits, rich, homeless, etc.  They become our friends, and we realize that the differences between us are very visible and fairly superficial. Who knows?  Maybe the DNC should think about supporting reality TV shows like Wife Swap (I’ve never seen it).

Finally, assuming we (Democrats) want to get more Republicans to vote for Hillary by capitalizing on primals already in place–to appeal to primals for political purposes without changing them–it seems that the Clinton folks were right to seize on how the Trump convention was pessimistic about America and then, at the Democratic convention, do more than the usual “America is the best” fanfare.  In other words, in order to appeal to those who see the world as more hierarchical, just, and in decline, it may be useful to be seen, to some degree, as the party of and celebrating the successful in-group.  I’m not sure if it’s worth it though.  It could alienate all those Dems who see the world as unjust and nonhierarchical.

In the meantime, I think it is important to not be condescending.  My original hypothesis had been that Trump people are essentially scared children, and that drove them, their politics, and their party into the arms of a demagogue.  This paternalistic theory was wrong.  The major difference between me and Trump supporters is more interesting and, hopefully, more useful.

Appendix

  • On average, Republicans see the world as a tad more dangerous.  There’s a small difference between Republicans (M=2.31, SD=.96) and Democrats (M=2.53, SD=.92), but it’s barely significant t(321)=1.96, p=.05; g=.24.
  • On average, Republicans see the world as more Alive than Democrats (M=2.69, SD=.76; M=2.42, SD=.86; t(321)=-2.67, p=.008; g=.32).  This means they live in a reality more imbued with purpose and intentionality (M=2.63, SD=.91; M=2.2, SD=1.01; t(321)=-3.7, p=0.0003; g=.45).
  • On average, Republicans see the world as more easy to characterize than Dems (M=2.86, SD=.72; M=2.55, SD=.74; t(321)=-2.36, p=.019; g=.29).
  • On average, Dems see the the world as less competitive than Republicans (M=2.74, SD=.9; M=2.5, SD=.9; t(321)=2.2, p=.029; g=.27).
  • On average, Dems see the world as more funny than Republicans (M=2.88, SD=.91; M=2.66, SD=.93; t(321)=1.99, p=.047; g=.24).
  • On average, Dems see reality as more interconnected (M=.303, SD=1; M=2.74, SD=.91; t(321)=2.43, p=.016; g=.29).
  • The 2nd biggest difference is that, on average, Republicans see the world as more just (M=.2.58, SD=.84; M=2.86, SD=.93; t(321)=-2.78, p=.0057, g=.34).
  • When it comes to primals, the biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is that whereas Republicans on average see reality as full of things that are meaningfully distinguishable from each other, Democrats tend to see all differences as not better or worse, but just different (M=2.73, SD=.82; M=2.17, SD=.91; t(321)=-5.23, p<.0001, g=.63).  You can think of this as “hierarchical.”  Republicans on average see hierarchy as more natural.  Everything is different from each other in ways that can make the object or person truly better or worse.  Democrats see hierarchy as more unnatural because the differences between things are not typically good or bad.
  • On average, Democrats see the world as more worth exploring (M=3.35, SD=.8; M=3.05, SD=.1.16; t(321)=2.8, p=0054, g=.34).
  • On average, Republicans tend to see the world as in decline (M=2.66, SD=1.32; M=2.12, SD=1.15; t(321)=-3.73, p=.0002, g=.45).
  • Compared to other Republicans/independents, Trump supporters see the world as equally good, safe (not even a little different), enticing, scarce (not even a little different), acceptable, beautiful, characterizable (Trump people see the world as slightly more characterizable), competitive (Trump people see the world as slightly more competitive), pleasurable, funny, improvable, improves, interesting, interconnected, meaningful, needs me (Trump people think the world needs them a little bit more), fragile, harmless, understandable, worth exploring, against them, and declining.
  • On average, Trump people see the world as even more Alive (M=2.69, SD=.76; M=2.38, SD=.91; t(303)=-2.94, p=.0036; g=.36).  And thus even more intentional (M=2.77, SD=.91; M=2.4, SD=1.12; t(303)=-2.9, p=.004; g=.36) and about them (M=2.22, SD=.84; M=1.96, SD=.83; t(303)=-2.57, p=.011; g=.31).
  • On average, Trump people see the world as even more hierarchical (M=2.62, SD=.9; M=2.31, SD=.9; t(303)=-2.85, p=.005; g=.35).
  • On average, Trump people see the world as even more just (M=2.77, SD=.94; M=2.54, SD=.93; t(303)=-1.99, p=.047; g=.24).
  • On average, Trump people don’t think the world is changing all that much (M=2.99, SD=.81; M=3.18, SD=.71; t(303)=2.12, p=.035; g=.26).

Note: After this post got approximately a bazillion more views than I expected (actually just 15,000), I thought I would double-check my analysis.  So, FYI, the above has been updated in light of a further review of effect sizes.  

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About Jer Clifton

Look up, friend. The world is too beautiful for my eyes alone. View all posts by Jer Clifton

128 responses to “What Reality are Trump People Living In?

  • Jnana Hodson

    Empirical evidence seems to have no relevance to Trump or his followers. As for science? They’re against it, having flunked the courses.

    • Jer Clifton

      Howdy. INMO this comment feels a bit against the spirit of the post. As I said, demonizing Trump people has started to bore me, but did thinking about their primals help make sense of where they are coming from? I’d love to know…

      • The Dawn's Eclipse

        I’d like to see a larger sampling of the public for sure. Being an independent, I have heard great arguments from both sides and have often found myself voting for one side or the other over the years. The arguments for this election have been interesting none the least.

        I also find it interesting that some of the points made for a republican make up my a small portion of my friends that are democratic and vice versa for some of my republican friends. Of course you did say take it with a grain of salt from the small amount of data.

        A larger study of closing the gap for understanding the way we think on political spectrum would be, I think, astounding. It is absurd that people from both sides see one side or the other as illogical and without reason. Which usually ends up with one or more people reaching cognitive dissonance (both parties) that causes misconception and vague arguments.

        Are you planning on doing a larger study?

        • Jer Clifton

          Good point! I would definitely like to see a larger sample too. You can see though that the p-values are good to go though, especially when it comes to just and hierarchical. But yeah, big grain of salt. Also, we haven’t done test re-test studies yet. So yeah, grain of salt exactly. I’ll be trying to publish this in a year or so, but by then nobody will care about the trump data so I wanted to share it and wow, holy cow, lots of people seem to be interested in this (compared to my usual posts of course). But yeah, I’ll need more money to do a larger study. Hopefully this gets the attention of some funders. Glad this piqued your interest! : )

          • The Dawn's Eclipse

            Even if not just for Trump, the data collected for democrats, republicans, and the political spectrum, and more in-depth research could give insight and a better understanding of our own politics and why we think the way we do. There is so much I could talk about on this and how much deeper of a rabbit hole it could go that I’ve been saying for years, but I’ll just leave it at that.

          • Greg

            Could you share your methods section describing who you sampled and how? n’s would be nice.
            Also did you consider adjustment for multiple-comparison?
            The distributions look reasonable for hierarchical and I believe that difference but the iJust comparison looks like the same distribution with a small pile of people effecting the skew.
            Lastly when you publish please publish the instrument as well.

    • The Dawn's Eclipse

      Typical insults….what’s new.

  • Sarah Britton

    Hi Jer, great article. You have a couple of wrong uses of “than” in the paragraph preceding, “OK, pretending this makes sense…”

  • Inti Martínez-Alemán

    Jer, I completely agree with your interest, your assessment, and your conclusions. This is a fantastic start for a bigger project, as it appears you will be tackling in the near future. Please keep me posted on your research. I want to learn more about primals and their practicality. This particular post is a good example of its potential pragmatism. I’d also be interested in the intersectionality (if any) of primals with what the Kingdom of God has to offer.

  • Guy Chapman

    I wonder if there is also an implicit sense of agency here, which would explain the tendency to conspiracist ideation?

  • Whit

    If somebody brings up a discussion of State Birds, and goes on to explain how his state’s bird is the on fleek and all other state birds be basic as fuck, and the conversation moves along to flags, and how his State Flag is lit, and then how tinder girls in other states are all trashcan fires in comparison to girls in his state, I would not say, “wow, this is a person who has a hierarchical primal,” I would say this person is from Texas, I mean douche bag, no, I did mean Texas, this is a Texas joke, and Texans need people to explain jokes. I suspect that some folks who give lip service to the value of rational hierarchical evaluations, in fact, merely cling to a calculus that spits out easily anticipated results: that all things familiar and domestic glitter, and that which glitterings be gold. Every jingoists is strapped with a wobbly hierarchical world view. At what level of intellectual dishonesty does a hierarchical primal become xenophobia? Likely only an insignificant sliver of republicans fit this insinuation, but effectively trivial shards can produce statistically significant charts.

  • Loyal Hall

    This is a very nice, data-driven analysis. The exposure in particular agrees with my own experience (white, small-town conservative -> more progressive through relationships with “others”) and personal conclusions about hierarchy and its influence. One time a buddy and I were figuring out how to solve the worlds’ problems and we decided mandatory civil service in a different context from native context would be the most efficient way. (And help people work out their early adulthood foolishness before college/technical school/career.)
    Since I’m biased towards your conclusions, I’m wondering how you acquired your sample group. You said it was an internet poll. So were participants self-selecting, connected to you somehow, or approached through some sort of database, etc.?

    • Jer Clifton

      Good questions and comments. I like your everyone does AmeriCorps idea. It’s worthy of serious consideration. This was an online mTurk sample, so in that way, not representative of everyone for sure. We’d have to do several more studies before reaching conclusions.

  • Erik

    Enjoyed the write up. In the past I’ve tended to think that conservatives had a more black/white conflict dualism worldview and liberals had a more gray complementary dualism worldview – but it may be more accurate that all of us see things that fit our worldview as black and white, but tend to take a more nuanced stance when things challenge our worldview.

    • Morgen Rich

      Interesting, Erik. What popped into my head was somewhat similar. What you’re seeing as “gray” and what Jer described as his deviations from primals that were “typically” Dem reminded me of Chela Sandoval’s concept of one of the modes of oppositional consciousness in grassroots political movements–specifically, to the one employed by U.S. Third World feminism (as it was called back in the late 80s, early 90s). Sandoval defined the basic modes of opposition as equal rights, revolutionary, supremacist, and separatist. The fifth she called differential. Because of their socially necessary, learned ability to self-identify in more than one way (i.e., Black, female, lesbian, etc.) in their oppositional efforts, grassroots U.S. Third World feminists could “shift gears” (like the differential in a transmission) to achieve their political goals, thereby employing whichever of the four modes of consciousness/opposition was most effective at a given time.

      I haven’t had time to process the idea, but I wonder how it plays with Jer’s idea about cultural exposure. U.S. Third Word feminists are by and large Democrats, and their multiple modes of consciousness and opposition would certainly fit with the idea that cultural exposure has a great influence on primals (hierarchical leaps out immediately).

      If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a link to Sandoval’s article on the topic: http://www.dialogoglobal.com/barcelona/texts/sandoval/Sandoval%20US%20Third%20World%20Feminism.pdf

  • John Tollison

    This makes me immediately ask, What reality are those who are dumbfounded by Trump living in? Offputting? Maybe, but Trump seems overwhelmingly obvious to me. I’ve never personally crossed over, and I gave to Johnson’s campaign a few days ago, but I’m sympathetic to Trump supporters.

    1st, thoughts on your analysis here. It’s hard to comment on this primals take without seeing exactly how you surveyed people. In particular, “justice” jumps out. I think you have to careful to define the term as people hear the term to mean very different things. See Sowell’s book Quest for Cosmic Justice.

    I heard “life’s not fair” growing up. I think it’s a nod to the wastefullness of dwelling on it.

    Competition: my first thought is that democrats seem to see more social competition (as opposed to military/financial/natural-physical-world) which makes for an apples to oranges comparison.

    Decline: I basically agree that Rs see more of this and it probably reflects their surroundings, BUT Ds extreme belief in global warming speaks to this as well. I say extreme because the costs of “doing something” are never admitted, and those costs are often not likely to be carried as heavily by Ds. Personally, I explicitly believe we have an ongoing problem as world population rises and we draw down on fossil resources.

    As for political correctness, I think that’s also straightforward. My niece was worried her kid wouldn’t get into k-4 because blacks get the slots first. She grew up in a trailer and saw her mom die young(40s) after an oxy addiction. She sees the same news as everyone else, uses the same internet, and everyone is falling all over themselves to help minorities… even to the extent that there are college classes that seek to inform people of their white privilege. My gut feeling is that most people are overvaluing the recent economic injuries somewhat and undervaluing the cultural insult. You can’t have affirmative action and high levels of immigration of AA populations. But at his point, there’s no convincing narrative as to how either of those ever ends other than right leaning supreme judges being appointed in this cycle.

    My grandmas didn’t start _high_ school (1 quit to pick cotton, the other eventually got a GED). 1 granddad was an alcoholic and I never knew the other. Another cousin died young from painkillers. 1 nephew is now, constantly, on the verge of homelessness. From where I’m standing, we can all be americans, or we can fight it out. But if anyone is thinking of telling me whites are privileged, they should tread very carefully. To invite in numerous immigrants who are immediately given legal preferences over my family is angering. I had one friend on FB who is half mexican and iirc had kids going to a private school. Nevertheless, I saw him advocating for candidates that he thought were good for minorities.

    idk, you tell me, what reality am I living in? What reality are you?

    • Jer Clifton

      Thanks for this post. I found it thoughtful and well-meaning! I’m excited to have more of your thoughts when we get the chance to lay out the primals idea more systematically.

      • tim gilley

        Primal? Have you considered the predictable reactions of the perpetually offended class? SJW’s and BLM come to mind. BLM is provably built on the lies of ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ and the lionization of a criminal. How about an equal analysis of the other end of the spectrum?

        Disclaimer: The two presidential candidates are the worst in US history. I see no difference in the way the supporters of either see their candidate. Reality matters little as long as their candidate wins.

  • Loyal Hall

    By the by. You are in for the length of a PhD? I’m sorry to tell you, you’re not a butterfly. You’re a cicada.

  • mikkosarela

    Jer: I have another proposal for you to think about w.r.t cities vs. other areas.

    Let’s consider for a moment what makes land valuable and what increases the value of land. (This is relevant, you’ll see it in a bit.)

    – In the countryside, the value comes from the work that the owner puts into the land.
    – In a city the value comes from the network of people around the land and how that changes, and how the traffic system changes, and how other things around the land change.

    There you can see the core of the difference. The economic system works differently in cities vs. countryside and small town environment.

    • Cognitive Politics (@CogntvPolitics)

      This makes sense, plus cities are vastly more interdependent on cooperative changes. The value on a farm comes mostly from the people on the farm. City life simply needs government, it’s much harder to imagine a functioning city without public planning and all kinds of services and many more rules — there’s no choice but cooperation.

  • Mark Gardner

    How are these particular abstract categories determined? They’re all over the place conceptually.

  • Andrew Conru

    Very interesting article, thanks! I’m wondering if there is a correlation between the average differences in IQ scores or education between races in urban and rural places and primal world beliefs. As someone who grew up in a rural part of a red area then moved to urban blue area, I see that I interact more with people of similar education regardless of race than what I did when younger. My friends who grew up in affluent urban areas tend to view racial groups as more fundamentally equal. Am I overlooking something?

  • Liz sharp

    Bet you’re a college graduate? Usually it takes a college grad twenty pages to explain himself because he’s so consumed with pride for his opinion. That’s why you don’t understand the trump train. You’re too smart to be of ant use

  • Joseph Hertzlinger

    Speculation on Trump supporters vs. other conservatives. The Trump supporters view the world as having been just at some point in the recent past. Any change since that time is therefor unjust. The establishment wing views the world as currently just.

    Is there that much of a difference between seeing the word as alive and seeing it as interconnected? The difference might merely be one of vocabulary.

    As for the claim about whether the world is funny, I’ve been struck by the opposite phenomenon: Politics is slightly more balanced among comedians than the rest of the entertainment world. On the other hand, maybe that’s because I’m including libertarians.

  • Joseph Hertzlinger

    “Adopting the lens of hierarchy does not come naturally to me, and of course I’m very much a fan of making everyone more like me. Let’s do it!”

    You mean non-hierarchical people are higher on the hierarchy?

    • jobethian09

      Hertzlinger: Ha. Good one. I had exactly the same thought! Jer, why couldn’t it be that a person would choose to shun urban areas “because” that person is hierarchical and not the other way round? For me, cities are not merely different, but smell “bad” and are noisy, jostling, unsafe, expensive, and otherwise distasteful. Could it be that non-hierarchical urbanites just lack the capacity to make these subtle distinctions? I’ve known some non-hierarchicals who can’t rank an egg from chicken poop, even though one is good for food and one is not. All they can see are the similarities and benefits of both. That speaks to a “deficiency” of discernment and not something to aspire to. Is it even possible to make someone “lose” their hierarchical nature, without repeated and prolonged abuse?

        • jobethian09

          Jer, have you ever researched “How Evolutionary Biology Affects Societies”? Here is a link –>http://www.anonymousconservative.com/blog/how-r-and-k-type-psychologies-affect-societies-and-what-this-means-for-our-political-dialog/
          I hope you find this interesting as well.

          • Ed

            That link is a nice example of a hierarchical “conservatives are better” opinion piece pretending to based on something factual. No references, no facts, just some conservative opining on how they’re superior.
            Anyone else tempted to click and read, save your time.

            • everlastingphelps

              Right, whatever you do, don’t go look at the BadThink. You’ll be infected with new ideas. (The article says nothing about conservatives being superior, just fundamentally different. It’s interesting that that is how you interpreted it.

              • Swelteringpatriot

                Reading comprehension is not you forte, eh everlasting. The basis for the link and the site is as follows:

                As the images flowed through my brain, I saw one side, brave, strong, and honorable, the other, groveling, weak, and pathetic. The presence of one side enhanced the fitness of the population, while the persistence of the other deteriorated it. One was genuinely good and created magnificence, and one was not. The daring and the cowards. The patriots and the traitors. The Warrior and the Hippie. The Capitalist and the Communist. The stoic NRA member, and the easily frightened and insecure anti-gun pussy. The Marine, and the Womyn’s studies major at UC Berkeley. Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Liberals. Complexity in adaptation and a devolved simplistic fecundity. Evolution and Devolution. The production of a great society, and the decline into chaos of a collapsing society. It all made sense. I thought back to the microbes, and the conditions which produced them, thought of r/K theory, and all of this was borne in my mind.

                Mindless drivel from a shut-in with far too much time, deep insecurities and too few friends/humans in their life. Sad.

              • Zoe

                Either you’re completely obtuse, you’re trolling, or you didn’t read that article. The entire article, from beginning to end, is judgmental and not only implies that Conservatives are superior but flat-out states it, in multiple, increasingly offensive ways. The author is clearly judging (and interestingly, has obviously PRE-judged, without benefit of data) that Liberals (r-types) are BAD and will lead to the collapse of civilization, and Conservatives (K-types) are GOOD, and are in essence the only thing standing between liberals and the total collapse of civilization. Except that’s never been the case, in any society, ever. There have always been r-types and K-types, and every great society that has ever existed has eventually collapsed or at least “declined.”

                What’s fascinating is that the author (and, apparently, you?) actually believe that the world is binary; there are r-types and K-types and the Venn diagram between them is a null set.

                As Donald Trump (by the way, clearly an r-type! promiscuous, married multiple times, got his first million from his DAD (he didn’t earn it!)) would say: Sad.

          • Joseph Hertzlinger

            I am dubious about the theory, at least as far as the present line-up of American politics is concerned.

            The current home of left-wing ideologies appears to be among descendants of Puritans whereas the current home of right-wing ideologies appears to be among descendants of Borderers (see “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer). The Puritans were obviously K-selected and the Borderers were obviously r-selected. Maybe the theory made sense back in the days of Andrew Jackson or William Jennings Bryan.

            On the other hand, r-selected vs. K-selected might explain the difference between Trump supporters and Never-Trump conservatives.

      • Sam J.

        I agree with jobethian09. Large cities have way too much traffic. Noise. High cost. They also have too many rules. The more people the more rules. Maybe my belief in hierarchy means I want to avoid it by not having so many rules.

  • Random Grouches

    I’ve got dozens and dozens of questions that will have to wait on your research. One large specter still looms though: Why do Rs like guns (in general) and why do Ds dislike them (in general)? I can possibly see the “I worked for my stuff, so I’ll defend it” argument, but that seems too trivial and answer. Thoughts?

  • John Valentine sheehan

    I have read all of this carefully. As a Marist College Chem grad with two MAs, I think I am Hierarchical (Science, the Church and school are all included here). Predictably, I have never in all my studies or collaboration come across such a discussion. It has never been in any curriculum of all those courses. No, it will not be on the test. Is testing basically hierarchical? Oh, all the paths for digression raise their divergent heads here. Such important discussions are like Economics: lay all the economists in the world end to end and they still won’t reach a conclusion. Nor can I. Hats off to all you ontologists.

  • lotusf33t

    This offers some explanation of what made the “greatest generation” great. They were sent around the world and met people of all types for five years. This was an infusion of inoculation against any hierarchical or just attitudes. They spread this temporary inoculation to spouses, friends, and children when they came home. What have we lost since then?

    A belief that we are all in this together.

  • John

    There are millions of people who will vote for trump because Hillary is horrible not because he’s good. It’s baffling how anyone could support either candidate.

  • Daniel Whiteson

    You have confused statistical significance (p-value indicates whether the two measurements are likely to come from a single distribution) with effect size. If there’s a tiny effect size, you can measure it if you have enough data, get a tiny p-value, without it meaning anything. In your analysis, you don’t seem to ever consider the _size_ of the effect; instead you overstate your conclusions when they align with pre-conceived notions, so that you learn nothing.

  • Fox's Rest Farm

    Very interesting – this gives me some new perspectives, and I appreciate that.

  • Stephen Balzac

    Very interesting post. A few thoughts for you…

    Are you familiar with Schein’s work on organizational culture? I’m perhaps stretching things a bit here by extending it to social organizations such as political parties and social groups in general, but I think it can be applied in a valid way. Basically, Schein makes the argument that culture is the residue of success: what worked in the past eventually becomes part of our roadmap for navigating the world. As such, culture is a mechanism for providing structure, reducing uncertainty, and binding anxiety. When culture changes, however, it does not necessarily change in a smooth, uniform manner. Rather, change moves through different parts of the culture at different rates.

    Because change is moving at different rates, different subcultures will experience it at different times and in different ways. Changes to the culture will trigger anxiety because the culture is no longer doing its job of providing a correct roadmap and, by extension, binding anxiety. As I argue in “The 36-hour course in organizational development,” another side-effect of the unevenness of culture change is that failing (where failing is defined as behaviors that used to work and, due to changes in society/technology/culture no longer work as before) behaviors become more ingrained: rarely is a behavior successful 100% of the time; therefore, when the behavior doesn’t work, the typical response is to “try harder.” As a behavior becomes less likely to succeed, you have to “try harder” more and more often. But, some of those “try harder” moments will produce the desired result: thus intermittent reinforcement occurs. By the time the behavior fails altogether (if it ever does get to that point), it may have still been intermittently reinforced a great many times.

    So how does this apply to your argument about primals? Well, if we take “just” and “hierarchical” as cultural values, then I think we can make a strong argument that those cultural values have changed in obvious ways over the past several decades (this depends on how you define just and hierarchical, of course, but if you accept Lakoff’s argument that Republicans tend to view the natural hierarchy of the world as “white man then white woman then black man etc” we have one obvious way in which hierarchy is being upended. Similarly, if “just” implies that hard work is going to be rewarded (something that some social psychologists refer to as the just world fallacy), and if people feel that their hard work is not being rewarded, then we have a mismatch between reality and social reality aka the cultural roadmap. Again, this triggers anxiety. And, of course, if we include the idea of psychological reactance, then to the extent that people feel that something is being taken from them (justice and a known, comfortable hierarchy; a clear roadmap for how to live and be successful; an image of a country that may or may not have actually ever existed, but certainly did in their social reality), then they will fight ever harder to keep it.

    There is a fair bit of research that shows that as the environment becomes (or is perceived to be) more ambiguous and uncertain, people tend to seek stronger, more authoritarian leadership. As people experience greater cognitive dissonance between their observed reality and the reality that culture tells them they should be living in, they feel increasing discomfort and uncertainty, triggering a desire for stability and a desire to restore the roadmap: in other words, again, a desire for someone to remove the uncertainty, or, in other words, a desire for more authoritarian leaders.

    Hope this gives you something to think about.

    -Steve

  • jiepceej@gmail.com

    Thanks again for the post.Thanks Again. Much obliged.

  • Andrew Grisham

    Your ability to communicate with people in the comment section is impressive. I have to work on my social skills.. Anyway, I was happy to see your research, as I never did find the “Republicans are just afraid” thing. Having been one when I was in middle and high school, I remember a greater amount of hatred for things and people seen as inferior. So hierarchical being higher makes sense to me, since Republicans do tend to see things as having essential value.

    I wonder if you could include the Green, Libertarian and Constitution Party as you grow your research? Seeing how people on the extremes in political philosophies differ from their more moderate brethren would be interesting. Would the Greens be higher than the Democratic party on seeing the world as Alive? Would the Constitution party be even more hierarchical than Trump people? Would the Libertarians intersect between the poles ( in the few differences that actually separate them)? I would find that interesting anyway, and the research could help build a bridge over the gutter that seems to prevent interaction between these groups.

    • Jer Clifton

      Absolutely! I’d love to look at 3rd parties. To do that, we’d need money. My hope is that funders emerge who want to look at Primals and politics, Primals and depression, etc.

    • Cognitive Politics (@CogntvPolitics)

      Breaking down to smaller groups seems important. Jonathan Haidt found libertarians, who in the US vote “conservative,” tend to have moral foundations that look more like liberals in many ways. And the studies on right-wing authoritarianism show some major splits in conservatives that get lumped into one demographic and usually one party — you can see it in the idea that authoritarians like a strong presidency, but the US conservatives almost always have opposed a strong presidency, with liberals in the middle of the two types of conservatives. Regressions on that data would get tangled.

  • Georgine Burke

    You really need to look at ethnic/racial differences, especially white vs black.

  • Bill Campbell

    Really interesting! My only criticism would be the insinuation that Americans, even American voters, can be neatly divided into two groups that correspond closely to party affiliation. Americans who identify as R or D are a rapidly shrinking minority, and the binary paradigm has never been a very good way of defining or explaining people. If your interest is in Trump supporters vs. non-supporters, maybe you should slice and dice based on that?

    • Ian B

      Agreed with this. I would have enjoyed reading the “other” designation, whether it is classifies Independents and Third Part followers separately or as a single group.

      There are a couple of parts where Independents are grouped with one side or the other, but never specifically broken out on their own.

      It prompts the question whether there is a particular worldview that engenders a third party perspective.

  • Jim Dutton

    Interesting research, thanks.

    You mentioned religiosity as a possible correlate with the Alive primal, but I wonder whether that factor could indeed be causal with several of the primal differences. Folks who honestly believe in an invisible, omniscient morality judge will likely feel the world (including God) is more Just. If they believe, as many religious people do, that even small infractions can result in mortal punishment and eternal damnation, this can impact their sense of humor about some things. When they look around and see rationality winning out over religion within their lifetimes, that can lead to the idea the world is In Decline, even if every other aspect of life is demonstrably improving.

    Finally, religion is all about making judgements of good and evil — Hierarchical judgments. Equating “different” with “evil” was, I would conjecture, a necessary medieval defense mechanism and it remains a central tenant of religious mores rooted in that period of history. Why were the Philistines evil? Because they liked the taste of pork I guess.

  • Regulus A Black

    This is fascinating. The findings about “worth exploring” ring particularly true based on my limited experience. A friend of mine with very similar background to me (we both grew up in Kansas, both went to the same elite school, and both work for the same company, and we’re both in our late 20s) is very conservative politically, while I am very liberal. In many ways, we are very similar, but “worth exploring” is not one of them. He is highly educated and has a well-paying job, but he has no interest in exploring the world. Every other city in the states is pretty much the same as where we live, he reasons, so there’s no point in going there, and he has specifically told me that he sees no reason to get a passport.

    This is utterly incomprehensible to me, which makes sense given what you said about primitives. Controlling for income and other factors, it would be interesting to see actual differences in travel between Democrats and Republicans, and especially which came first (in other words, do people become more liberal and do they think the world is more worth exploring as they travel more? I suspect yes).

  • sepultura13

    You feel that calling a supporter of Drumpf what they are, is demonizing? Interesting take, that…

    My opinion won’t matter on this, because any statement I give will be seen as ‘demonization,’ apparently.

    Interesting study.

  • sarahlweedon13

    Now for something completely different… Your post has given me some great material for my sermon tomorrow morning on supping with Jesus. The gospel lesson is Luke 14:1,7-14 where he questions the hierarchical seating arrangement (holiness=success=higher seat at the table) when dining with the Pharisees. He also says not to invite friends and family to the table but rather “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” That is a good way to expose oneself to new experiences and people.

    Needless to say, those who try to do those things that Jesus asks us to do – take care of sick, welcome strangers, love enemies, feed poor, shelter homeless etc. – tend to be non-hierarchical people. There are other religious people whose attention is more on who is following doctrine, boundaries, and dogma who fall into the category of hierarchical people. We both are sincere but tend to “rank” our group higher than the other!

  • Candide III

    If you are “confused by why Americans need to talk about their country like it’s the best country in the history of the world”, you need to read McKenna’s “Puritan Origins of American Patriotism”. The Puritan mindset he describes is alive and well on both sides of the aisle, albeit in slightly different forms.

  • Gary Gartner

    Thought provoking. Thanks.
    I tend to agree with Eric (above).
    I see most individuals as divided between Engineers and Non-Engineers.
    Engineers see most issues as black or white.
    Non-Engineers see most issues in shades of grey.
    Engineers are accountants, constructors, (literally) engineers ….
    Non engineers are artists, performers, teachers ….
    My experience is that most Rs are Engineers while most Ds are Non-Engineers.
    Don’t know how or if this plays into your research, just an observation.

    I concur, interesting study/observation

  • doug

    your data and discussion are interesting but your appendix is woefully inadequate when it does not include the items comprising each of your measures and the scale they were rated on – you should, for example, list all the questions or statements which go into your “hierarchical” measure and, by so doing, give your readers a chance to see whether or not they agree with your interpretation of the nature of that factor – you also should report the results of investigations into the validity of your interpretations (e.g., factor and reliability analyses and correlations with other factors and demographics – finally, beware of on-line samples – verify results using other methods of data collection

  • Melanie

    I think the hierarchical aspect is a side effect of religion.

  • Cognitive Politics (@CogntvPolitics)

    Brainstorms on justice: You can believe the world is simply not a just place and not expect it, or that the natural order is just … but that could mean it is just or needs to be just or both. That would give you four quadrants. My sense is that most liberals are less concerned with justice… with a smaller but more active group who believe the world is not just but it is important that it needs to be, somewhat angry and depressed a lot of the time… and are often the most active and therefore visible liberals [e.g. Sanders]. Most conservatives more comfortably believe the natural order is just in the full sense, meaning Walmart billionaires deserve their billions and everyone should give to charity and participate in the justice. Some, including a slice that often winds up leading, believe that justice is defined by what is (not a normal use of the word of justice, but an obvious 4th quadrant), the opposite of the depressed or angry liberal activists. This means if you inherited a lot of money, that’s just dandy (and no need to give to charity) — liberals who are low on the justice scale don’t tend to believe this (which makes me thing the word “justice” might be an inadequate word for this, but nothing fits perfectly), they don’t think it’s fine to claw your way to the top. Cheney and Trump are in this quandrant — and these conservatives are few in number but also often come to represent conservatism as leaders somewhat beyond their numbers, since this philosophy would be drawn to power rather than sitting in church every Sunday.
    graphically: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/19hRFFQGSrT0qRtQbQMdCSqrDzE2_WWzkFNbrzBIRh3I/edit?usp=sharing
    Some of these thoughts based on The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer

  • Primal worldviews and political differences - ***Dave Does the Blog | ***Dave Does the Blog

    […] What Reality are Trump People Living In? If you are anything like me, you don’t quite understand what to make of the Trump phenomenon. Sure Hillary is winning, but what is more interesting to me is that over a third of Americans st… […]

  • Jack

    Very interesting read. It’s really about left vs right, but the Dems aren’t really ‘left’ anymore so it would be good to compare America’s far right, with proper left wing people from another country

  • tim gilley

    Given the title of your article a risk of confirmation bias would be reasonable. Disclaimer: Trump and Hillary are the two worst candidates in US history.

    Tribal? The truly tribal organizations prominent in today’s politics appear to be Democrat. SJW’s and BLM come to mind plus a myriad of other groups the see the world as ‘us and them’. A tribal characteristic is staying with the ‘in’ group. Let a liberal express a ‘conservative’ opinion and watch the reaction you get from the tribe.

    Lost in this research is the question, “Which view is closer to reality?” Opinions, perspectives and research are only valid inasmuch as they coincide with reality.

  • CptNerd

    “What Reality are Trump People Living In?”

    How about the reality where people like you believe in “demonizing” them?

  • Ckc Ckc

    I have been thinking about your analysis — specifically the thought that otherness can be interpreted as either good/bad or neutrally and that how you interpret otherness might predict your political point of view. Really fascinating.

    I think that your analysis has some pretty interesting ramifications for biodiversity and the whole future of culture and the world. A few random thoughts:
    — Biodiversity is rapidly disappearing. Animal and plant populations are becoming more homogeneous and we lose languages every year and cultures are becoming more and more like each other. Yet, scientists argue that biodiversity is the key to long term survival.
    — As cultures and populations become more developed around the world, it seems important (to me since I value otherness) that they not mimic the Western world.
    — How can we interact on a global scale, but still retain “otherness.”
    — I traveled this Summer and I was somewhat dismayed by the trend of voluntourism (volunteering while traveling). It seems like a great idea, but it also seems like yet another way to export Western values and ideas.
    — Can valuing “otherness” be taught? Is there empirical evidence (besides the biodiversity argument) that otherness IS valuable? Can valuing “otherness” be taught to imperiled populations — inspire them to stay different. Or, does valuing otherness need to become a value of the more powerful?
    — Is “otherness” a field of study at all?

    Thanks for the thought provoking article.

  • Donna Angarone

    I am a democrat and as one I Feel fairness and care as very important. But that being said I will vote for Trump because Hillary did not take care of classified info and she has lied right to our faces about being shot at. Maybe that is why Trump has been so successful they just don’t trust Hillary

  • Luiz Chamon

    Hey Jer!

    Really interesting article! You talk and this article got me wondering how beliefs about the world may vary in different knowledge domains and how they may shape the teaching and research programs… Like you said, there’s a lot of interesting ramifications of this!

    Anyway, shoot me an email (http://www.seas.upenn.edu/~luizf/) if you feel like grabbing a coffee some time…

    Cheers!
    — Luiz (jack*** from TA training)

  • Eric Jones

    It’s interesting to me that so many in the military are Republican. I would expect that they wouldn’t be hierarchical, since they are exposed to people from all walks of life, both as fellow soldiers and from extensive traveling. Maybe they aren’t hierarchical, but are Republican for a different reason.

  • Rev. Earl W. Koteen

    Interesting research and post. Thanks for sharing it.

    I am a liberal radicalized by environmental injustice, racism, and degradation. Injustices confirm my views of hierarchy – – not that it’s inherently evil or good, but that it’s inevitable because difference, conflict, and change are unavoidable, especially in an unsustainable culture.

    I am floored find the observation about the military and hurricane. The military is the very essence of a hierarchical organization and naturally attracts those who wish to participate in hierarchy.

    I wonder whether we would benefit from further exploring the meaning of hierarchy.

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  • Marian Makins

    From one Penn prof to another, this post is AWESOME.

  • Kris

    I think you’ve reversed the impact of urban v. rural/suburban living. Urbanites are atomized, not horizontal-acting: rural individuals pull together for a task. Rural individuals are more homogeneous, have similar needs and problems, and therefore understand each other: urbanites literally walk over each other to get to their individualized goals.

    I was in a large Italian city, a few months ago, when someone — alien? — died on the sidewalk. Amazingly, to me, people simply walked past the body. Mother’s with children pushed their kids out of the way as the kids stared. In contrast, I heard from an eye-witness about a farm accident in which a man fell into a silo and died. The entire community, without any “amber alert,” by word of mouth (cell phone) silently gathered outside the silo to pay respect to the man who died. As his body was retrieved, men forced their children to remove their hats and stand quietly and not move.

    The contrast couldn’t be greater.

    By the way, I live in a city (but will be leaving as soon as I can). And, I’m flirting with the idea of voting for Trump. PhD Ivy league, humanities.

  • hosswire

    Very interesting work. I hope that at some stage your research explores the hereditedness of the primals & how early differences between people begin to show.

    I suspect that you will find that these beliefs are largely inborn, not created by environment.

  • Jim Frank

    In ecological studies, as well as economics and robotics, choice trade offs are seen between exploring and exploiting. Exploring would be searching for new possibilities while exploiting refers to making the most of what is already acquired. Conservatism on the face seem to want to keep things as they are, which may seem less exploratory but it also attracts folks looking to exploit, think mining, oil and gas. Who gets to exploit depends on who gets there first and can maintain control, which accrue to those in higher place within hierarchies.

  • Pete McCabe

    Fantastic read for anyone who wants to understand people who disagree with them.

    I am interested in two divides I did not see mentioned.

    The first is people who choose what to believe based on evidence, and people who choose what to believe based on stories. I think this may be one of the underlying attitudes that affects everything above it.

    For example, no Evidencer (let’s call them) will never change a Storyer’s mind with evidence. The storyer will view any evidence as strengthening a conspiracy-based story. And Storyers who attempt to justify their beliefs with stories seem childishly naive, or worse, to Evidencers.

    The second one is people who want to be told what to do, versus those who don’t. I think this relates closely to hierarchical as mentioned. It would not be surprising if wanting to be told what to do would correlate well with religiousness. I wonder if wanting to be told leads one to see the world as hierarchical, or vice versa.

  • norsk2014

    Hi, Jer. As I am a basic scientist, you are discussing realms that are outside of my ken (for the most part), but I had to read your blog start to finish. The analysis is fascinating and challenging, and I really enjoy your writing style. I hope to read more from you in the future!

    I haven’t read all of the comments above, so forgive me if someone mentioned this. In your discussion, you make a passing, somewhat dismissive, reference to political correctness. I found that I was stuck on that point because that term now has many meanings, depending on who is using it. It was originally, I believe, intended to mean using appropriate and non-demeaning language to describe people or a group of people as a sign of respect to those people. So, for example, it became politically incorrect to refer to developmentally disabled individuals as “retarded.” This was intended to have a positive effect. Political correctness is now ascribed to many situations across our political and social landscape, and there are people who feel repressed about being criticized for speaking out in what they might term “plain language” (which others might refer to as abusive, racist, misogynistic, etc., language). And so they use the term “political correctness” as a perjorative. I would be really interested in reading an analysis of political correctness (as used by people on either side of your divide) within the context of your article!

  • everlastingphelps

    The major cities that are outliers (OKC, Salt Lake City) are cities that don’t have large black populations.

    If you don’t control for race you are going to be get useless results, and more likely end up with completely misleading results.

  • Charlotte

    Your article lead is about Trump, but most of your article is about the differences between Republucans and Democrates. I agree with most of your points. What you fail to acknowledge is that Hillary is almost as ‘Republican’ as Trump. That leaves true Democrates out in the cold this election. Many of us are not of the ‘vote blue no matter who’ mindset.

  • susanchambless

    I, too, have been curious about the Trump phenomenon. Why him? Why now? Ive watched Jonathan Haidt’s Ted talk a number if time and have found it helpful. I’ve been interested in Permaculture for a number of years and I think it’s important to understand these differences and accomodate them if we are ever going to have a sustainable culture – without which we won’t survive. As a progressive, I see the world as complex and interconnected. I also think human nature encompasses a wide variety of elements – some of them cotroversial. Am currently listening to Karen Armstrong’s Fields of Blood, trying to understand “Why religion?” Best of luck to you in your studies.

    • everlastingphelps

      It’s the midpoint between Kennedy’s quote: Those who make peaceful revolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. The same folks who are the bulk of the Trump crowd were Tea Partiers before. They are the people who were called racist without basis. These are the people who left the National Mall cleaner when they left, rather than dirtier. (I can’t remember who said, “if you had told them they were supposed to mow the grass before they left, people would be showing up with mowers on trailers.”)

      Those people were demonized, called racists, and fascist, and all of the other old chestnuts, and then to top it all off, they were betrayed by their own party, with those leaders piling on and then taking their money and running with it, to boot. So these politically homeless have learned two lessons:

      Following the rules means you lose.

      They are going to call you a racist and a fascist no matter what, including your own establishment.

      So, they’re now much less concerned with staying within the rules and they don’t care if what they say sounds racist or fascist. Both parties had a role in creating this constituency.

      And remember, this is the midpoint. So far, this has been a loud, crude, and rowdy revolution. What violence there has been has been much more often against the Trump crowd than by it. If peaceful revolution is impossible, then violent revolution is inevitable. We can either solve this problem or we can face blood in the streets.

  • Thurston. J. Hartford

    Wow. I’m not voting for the lying dangerous self interested criminal who puts America at risk while she sells favors all over the world bitch.

    But we don’t have to vote for anyone else because the bitch is dying of a thousand cuts and the medical karma she’s experiencing. She’ll end up as an invalid just shy of the election and within grasp of her coveted power chair. Instead she’ll be tortured and tormented as everything Obama created or screwed up gets corrected and or obliterated. By then she’ll be reduced to a bed ridden formless hunk of jello

    Good work though. Very impressive number crunching. But the people who don’t vote for Hillary refuse to be sheep. Instead we choose to be free. And we’ll fight for it even if the enemy is inside our border.

  • David Harary

    Honestly, this comes across as bombastic and biased. You surmise that democrats are less hierarchical because of college, Peace Corps, and traveling. And you say there’s nothing new here? Cite your stuff dude. Republicans go to college, join the peace corps, and travel. I’m a liberal from Massachusetts and a grad student at a global top 20 – I’m coming at this critique from a leftist perspective. And simply enough, many of the arguments you made were described through non-scientific means. You made sweeping judgments based on some stats. Chris Mooney and countless political psychologists + neuroscientists have been doing extensive research on the questions you’ve raised. And they do a far better job at explaining their results.

  • C. Scott Dempwolf

    Fascinating read and research. Best of luck with it. One thing I really like about your post and that I think does some good for the science / anti-science battle going on right now is that you are honest and transparent about what you know and what you don’t know in ways that are ‘nonhierarchical’. This is consistent with being a good scientist. You generate hypotheses and test them. If the evidence contradicts the hypothesis you simply say the hypothesis was wrong and set about developing a new hypothesis based on this new information. I think science might be harder for ‘hierarchical’ people because they are a priori more invested in the hypothesis being ‘right’ before the experiment is ever conducted. I also like that you are candid about your ow political positions and biases.
    On phrase that didn’t seem quite right with me was saying that dems “gloss over differences” – unless this was a borrowed republican characterization of dems. “Gloss over” implies that the differences are not viewed as important by dems, which is an interpretation that I disagree with. I think the differences are important to dems in the sense that they make further exploration of those differences worthwhile. The differences add richness and nuance to the exploration and therein lies their value.

    • Jer Clifton

      Thanks and good point. The “gloss over differences” point is kinda like “both sides can be described in unflattering ways or as ‘weird’ in relationship to each other, and that’s really not the point.” Does that make sense?

  • Gary Williams

    There is a lot here with (at least potential) explanatory value. I’ll share some thoughts you’ve triggered, in the hope that they might be helpful, as I get the time to think them through and articulate them.

    But my first proposal is that you come up with something other than “hierarchical” to describe a propensity to give value rankings to members of a set which differ from one another. “Hierarchy”, both in my mind and in its root meanings, has to do with rankings specifically by power, not by goodness or by quality. So as I think about the hierarchical dimension, I’m constantly distracted by having to remind myself that as you use it the dimension is not about the distribution of power.

    • Jer Clifton

      good point. any ideas for words to replace “hierarchical”?

      • everlastingphelps

        “Judging” could be borrowed from the personality typing circles, but I think it would be seen as a pejorative. DItto for “Discerning” in that the people it didn’t apply to would complain, “but I’m discerning!”

        I went through a dozen more, but it is hard to come up with something more accurate than judging. Judgers (like me) just have to suck it up — that’s what it is.

      • foxmusician

        I am bothered by the use of the term also, which usually implies social ranking in my area. How about gradated?

  • APeterson

    If there is a larger narrative in American history that implies a humanistic project toward inclusion and justice (and I certainly think there is given our ever expanding definition of “citizen” over our history) then your work strongly suggests that what most Americans and especially Republicans don’t understand is precisely where that narrative came from.

    If you live in an alive world of “just” belief you can avoid the really nasty bits that adhere to the American Exceptionalist triumphalism and pretend they were all just a part of a just and divine world. To me the missing part of this analysis is simply that introspection doesn’t seem to be part of the difference. Historical thinking strives to explain what happened: good historical research attempts to address the mentality of why it happened. Conservatives are, to my mind, just not interested in looking under the surface of their beliefs.

    • everlastingphelps

      The problem is that this humanist project is entirely a creation of the 20th century, and it has cost a much higher price than it was sold with. In the 18th and 19th centuries, America was both a nation and a state. In the 20th century, it was treated as simply a state, and there was little effort given to ensuring that the new citizens joined the nation. The melting pot became the salad bowl.

      I think there was a point 20-30 years ago that the brakes could have been put on, a big civic push could have been made towards assimilation, and instead, we did the same wrong thing harder. Now we are at least five nations under one state (rural whites, urban whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims) and that simply will not hold. Multiple nations have never existed under one state without war or balkanization (or both.)

  • foxmusician

    Mr. Clifton, Interesting work. For someone who grew up exposed to other cultures, I am surprised you do not see the cultural construction of “primals.” I think you will find they break down the further you get from American culture. Have you run an ethnicity component in analysis? You could dummy-code for primary ones, but participants in the US will be acculturated to some degree, with more clear differences at greater cultural distance. The other thing I wonder is if you have run across Terror Management Theory. It catches some flack, but if one’s culture provides an ersatz immortality to combat existential terror, then changes to white dominance form a mortal threat. This has more explanatory power about effectiveness of fear messaging, I’d think.

  • Erin

    I’m wondering why the percentage axis has different values for Republicans and Democrats, Jer. Isn’t that a no-no in graph analysis? At the very least, it is misleading visually, in my opinion. Is it possible to tidy that up or overtly explain it in some way?

  • Hershele Ostropoler

    You speculate that seeing the world as alive is a result of religiosity, but it seems to me it would be the other way around: someone who thinks the world is alive would think it has sentience, and assume therefore there is a source for that sentience.

    Additionally, I would expect people who see the world as just would also see it as alive. To believe that the universe itself acts to reward the god and punish the bad is necessarily to believe that the universe itself acts.

  • Binky

    Why look only at political parties? The political driver in a society such as ours is economic. Economics used to be called “political economy.” So why not look at beliefs concerning economics, which seem very in line with the varieties of beliefs you’re displaying here.

    Both parties are capitalist and the world views you’re describing, particularly regarding hierarchy and deserved/earned rewards are traits of capitalist thinking. The republicans are a more fundamentalist capitalist party than the democrats, but people in the US are raised from a very early age with these system reinforcing views the way people in religious covens are.

  • misterbill313

    I would like to know how/if the two groups differed on their MBTI profiles. I would expect that members of the group who view the world as more hierarchical would be more likely to be “J’s” on the Judging vs. Perceiving scale.

  • Ian Korf

    Thanks, that was a great read

  • Living Without Ego

    This is a fascinating study. I resonate strongly with your instinct against dismissing Trump supporters and instead trying to understand them – maybe that’s a reflection on our non-hierarchical natures. 🙂
    In your larger study, I personally would appreciate a comparable inquiry into Hillary supporters, as well as an inquiry into their respective “haters”. I think a study of these characteristics along gender and ethnic lines would be helpful as well (as the voter preferences seem to break along these lines as well).
    And – selfishly – I would be especially interested in the makeup of the “Never Hillary” electorate. Even more than those that love Trump, I am (personally) confused by those that hate Hillary so much. Like you, I am tired of dismissing them (as having been “taken in” by a false, biased media narrative – which is my reflective reaction). I am coming to a belief that her gender is part of the pervasiveness of the dislike for her – I don’t know if there would be a way to correlate that somehow with these findings. (How do people see gender roles as related to a President’s ability to run the world basically).
    I thank you for this though. It was very enlightening, and your support of empathetic inquiry over “demonization” is (I feel) important and inspiring. 🙂

  • John Austin

    According to your research, the biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans, on average, see the world as more hierarchical. For those who believe that reality is hierarchical (Republicans), if two things are different that usually implies that one is better than the other. Likewise, for those who see reality as nonhierarchical (Democrats), differences are likely surface and meaningless distinctions and probably distractions. Under the latter view, any attempt to organize the world into “better” or “worse” things will either fail or be inaccurate and superficial. To put it a different way, Democrats gloss over differences between such groups.

    Could that be why conservatives tend to see things in black and white, while liberals tend to see things in shades of gray?

    • Anon9

      I think nonhierarchical viewpoints may very well see differences as interesting and salient. They just don’t assume differences to represent superiority or inferiority along a linear rank-order from best to worst. That isn’t the same thing as finding differences meaningless.

  • John Austin

    Great research; thank you for posting this. This is a very nice way to approach the difference between the two parties.

    According to your research, the biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans, on average, see the world as more hierarchical. For those who believe that reality is hierarchical (Republicans), if two things are different that usually implies that one is better than the other. Likewise, for those who see reality as nonhierarchical (Democrats), differences are likely surface and meaningless distinctions and probably distractions. Under the latter view, any attempt to organize the world into “better” or “worse” things will either fail or be inaccurate and superficial. To put it a different way, Democrats gloss over differences between such groups.

    Could that be why conservatives tend to see things in black and white, while liberals tend to see things in shades of gray?

  • Mary Boyle

    Not a Trump supporter, but a Republican. The title of this article alone seems condescending/lacking in empathy (which term perhaps defines the concept “hierarchical” better than “hierarchical”?). Why don’t you reconsider a title that is less me vs. them, as your title alone told me you were a Democrat, and as you indicated, looked at Trump supporters originally in a “hierarchical” manner. And I mean this comment in a completely supportive manner of your research. Also I found the data on “funny” to be interesting, as most comedians strike me as angry and cynical (and therefore, funny).

    • everlastingphelps

      Right. The finding could go both ways, especially since it is self-rated. It could just as easily mean that the left group is less discerning on humor. Someone who like Kraft Mac and cheese equally with Mario battali’s beef check ravioli isn’t someone who “likes pasta more” than an Italian gourmet.

      Dunning-Kruger really drove that home in that one of the areas they specifically studied as “incompetent people think they are experts” was humor. Someone who thinks that every comedy is funny isn’t a funnier person. They might be happier, but the studies on overall happiness don’t jive with that.

  • Timothy Gieseke

    My work is in organizational and social governance styles…there is only three: hierarchy, market and network. Interestingly, hierarchy governance was predominant for centuries until the 1980s when market governance emerged to address an increasingly complex society and then in the 1990s when network governance emerged in response to our interconnected society. Few people move from one governance style to others – they are somewhat ingrained socio-cultural aspects. As applied to agriculture I recently published “Shared Governance for Sustainable Working Landscapes”. The point is not to choose the ‘right’ style as each has its own advantages and limitations, but to design the process where the best traits of the styles are appropriately applied. I even created a governance “personality” test for organizations…it tells a lot on how “things get done”

  • Vincent Cate

    Some other things to check out for differences between liberals and conservatives:
    1) understanding of how markets work, emergent order, invisible hand (think conservatives understand this much better)
    2) if the government is giving them money (think more liberals are getting money from government and so have a bias toward government, think more conservatives are paying taxes and do not have government jobs or any type of government support)
    3) do they believe the ends justify the means (think liberals will say sometimes and conservatives no)
    4) belief in individual responsibility or society responsible (think liberals more society and conservatives more individual)
    5) government is answer or problem, more laws needed or trouble (think liberals want more government)
    6) think they personally should follow all laws (think liberals not as much)

  • What Reality are Trump People Living In? | Jer's Intellectual Adventures

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  • maxbugga

    Fascinating work. Thank you for posting it. Full disclosure: I’m a 56 year old white male entrepreneur now retired who supports Trump. A couple things jump out of your data to me; or should I say…are conspicuous by their absence. I support Republicans because I owned a business and had to make payroll for decades. If I made it and was able to pay taxes, I was invisible to the IRS and all govt. bodies. Basically, I got my garbage picked up, the police were available if I needed them and my kids got to go to public school. But if I didn’t make payroll or was short at tax time, all hell broke loose and I was treated like a pariah and enemy of the state. All the while, the millions I paid into the system was never appreciated or acknowledged; just complained about that it wasn’t enough. So my position politically is to eliminate govt. at all costs, and most importantly, avoid career leftist politicians line the Clintons who in my view, have used and abused the politically naive to their benefit for most of their lives. Trump was not my first or second choice but he has one glaring advantage which you don’t take into account: he’s not a politician. I’d vote for my mutt rescue before I’d opt for Hillary Clinton or anyone like her.

  • hierarchy shift

    […] “Finally, the very definition of conservatism entails conserving something.  This is not an urgent priority for someone who sees reality as improving.  But, if the world is going to the dogs, then we need to hold on to the more just hierarchy of yesterday.” – what-reality-are-trump-people-living-in/ […]

  • Eddie

    Does your dataset include racial demographics? You imply that you don’t have religious demographics. Breaking down Democratic and Republican worldviews by race and religion could provide more insight.

  • Nick

    Thank you. This makes SO MUCH SENSE.

  • Andrew Brady

    Just got a chance to go back and read this again, post-election. Such fascinating research you’re doing, Jer! Thanks for sharing it with the world. Keep it coming!

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    […] agree to our own preferred standards of conduct, or to change the rules in the middle of a debate. When basic principles conflict, sometimes the best we can do is state our beliefs and agree to […]

  • WOLFGEIST (@WOLFGE1ST)

    This is such an interesting post, mostly because it puts some of my more abstract thoughts on the subject into a finer cohesion, and it also coincides with my personal experience, beliefs, and interactions with people on both sides of the proverbial fence.

    My one main question is this: Where does the belief in free will fit into all of this?

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