Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Maybe - a reason for the Red /Blue divide....


I and my friends try to understand why people vote against their interests. We have postulated many theories, none that are complete in helping us understand their motivations. 

But there is a great opinion piece in the New York Times that goes a long way - maybe most of the way in understanding this. I am going to quote much if it, but if you want the full story here it is (but it's NYTimes so might be behind a paywall).

This is based on "tight" states versus "loose" states. I quote...

In 2014, Michele J. Gelfand, a professor of psychology at the Stanford Graduate School of Business formerly at the University of Maryland, and Jesse R. Harrington, then a PhD. candidate, conducted a study designed to rank the 50 states on a scale of “tightness” and “looseness.”

Appropriately titled “Tightness-Looseness Across the 50 United States,” the study calculated a catalog of measures for each state, including the incidence of natural disasters, disease prevalence, residents’ levels of openness and conscientiousness, drug and alcohol use, homelessness and incarceration rates.

Gelfand and Harrington predicted “that ‘tight’ states would exhibit a higher incidence of natural disasters, greater environmental vulnerability, fewer natural resources, greater incidence of disease and higher mortality rates, higher population density, and greater degrees of external threat.”

In looking I think we assume California, with it's fires and occasional earthquakes, would rank high on tight states. But our lower mortality rates, and openness puts us squarely in the "loose" states

The South dominated the tight states: Mississippi, Alabama Arkansas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and North Carolina. With two exceptions — Nevada and Hawaii — states in New England and on the West Coast were the loosest: California, Oregon, Washington, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

In both 2016 and 2020, Trump carried all 10 of the top “tight” states; Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden carried all 10 of the top “loose” states.

Gelfand continued to pursue this line of research, publishing “Rule Makers, Rule Breakers: How Tight and Loose Cultures Wire the World” in 2018, in which she described the results of a 2016 pre-election survey she and two colleagues had commissioned:

The results were telling: People who felt the country was facing greater threats desired greater tightness. This desire, in turn, correctly predicted their support for Trump. In fact, desired tightness predicted support for Trump far better than other measures. For example, a desire for tightness predicted a vote for Trump with 44 times more accuracy than other popular measures of authoritarianism.

The 2016 election, Gelfand continued, “turned largely on primal cultural reflexes — ones that had been conditioned not only by cultural forces, but by a candidate who was able to exploit them.”

In a 2019 interview, Gelfand said that

Some groups have much stronger norms than others; they’re tight. Others have much weaker norms; they’re loose. Of course, all cultures have areas in which they are tight and loose — but cultures vary in the degree to which they emphasize norms and compliance with them.

Cultural differences, Gelfand continued, “have a certain logic — a rationale that makes good sense,” noting that “cultures that have threats need rules to coordinate to survive (think about how incredibly coordinated Japan is in response to natural disasters). But cultures that don’t have a lot of threat can afford to be more permissive and loose.”

The tight-loose concept, Gelfand argued,

is an important framework to understand the rise of President Donald Trump and other leaders in Poland, Hungary, Italy, and France, among others. The gist is this: when people perceive threat — whether real or imagined, they want strong rules and autocratic leaders to help them survive. My research has found that within minutes of exposing study participants to false information about terrorist incidents, overpopulation, pathogen outbreaks and natural disasters, their minds tightened. They wanted stronger rules and punishments.

There are significantly different costs and benefits to tight and loose communities. In her book, Gelfand writes that tightness encourages conscientiousness, social order and self-control on the plus side, along with close-mindedness, conventional thinking and cultural inertia on the minus side. Looseness, Gelfand posits, fosters tolerance, creativity and adaptability, along with such liabilities as social disorder, a lack of coordination and impulsive behavior.

There is more, but that is the key finding. And it makes sense to me. I like a good theory that helps my brain....

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