Posts Tagged Pew Research Center
One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows
BY CHRIS FRANCESCANI
NEW YORK Mon Dec 30, 2013
(Reuters) – One-third of Americans reject the idea of evolution and Republicans have grown more skeptical about it, according to a poll released on Monday.
Sixty percent of Americans say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” the telephone survey by the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project showed (Click here for the full survey).
But 33 percent reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time,” Pew said in a statement.
Although this percentage remained steady since 2009, the last time Pew asked the question, there was a growing partisan gap on whether humans evolved.
“The gap is coming from the Republicans, where fewer are now saying that humans have evolved over time,” said Cary Funk, a Pew senior researcher who conducted the analysis.
The poll showed 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats say humans have evolved over time, compared with 54 percent and 64 percent respectively four years ago.
Among religious groups, white evangelical Protestants topped the list of those rejecting evolution, with 64 percent of those polled saying they believe humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.
“This has been a staple of evangelical Protestantism for nearly 100 years,” said Alan Lichtman, an American University history professor and author of “White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement.”
A quarter of those surveyed told Pew that “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things.”
The survey of 1,983 adults in all 50 states was conducted from March 21 to April 8. The margin of error was 3 percentage points, meaning results could vary that much either way.
(The penultimate paragraph of this story has been corrected to say that one-fourth of all surveyed believe a supreme being guided evolution.)
(Reporting By Chris Francescani; Editing by Ian Simpson and Jonathan Oatis)
- POLL: One-third of Americans reject evolution… (reuters.com)
- One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows (news.yahoo.com)
- Skepticism of evolution grows among Republicans, according to new poll (csmonitor.com)
- CORRECTED – One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows – Firstpost (firstpost.com)
- One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows (firstpost.com)
- One-third of Americans reject evolution, poll shows (bangordailynews.com)
- Republicans’ belief in evolution plummets, poll reveals (cbsnews.com)
- Poll: Solid Majority Of Americans Believe In Evolution (washington.cbslocal.com)
- Poll: Republicans increasingly reject evolution (themoderatevoice.com)
- Poll: Republican Belief In Evolution On The Decline (newsy.com)
Boomerang Babies: Record Numbers of Young Adults Live with Parents at Terrible Cost
Facing big debts and few decent jobs, today’s young people can’t get started in life.
Photo Credit: shutterstock.com
August 5, 2013
America’s young people have been hit so hard by the crappy economy that they can’t even get out the door. A fresh study from Pew Researchreveals that 36 percent of Millennials —young adults ages 18 to 31 — are still living under their parents’ roofs (this includes college students who come home for breaks). Not since the 1960s have so many young people resorted to couch surfing with mom and dad, a record 21.6 million young adults last year.
This is a gigantic sign that something is going horribly wrong in our economy—something that will cost everybody.
The Wages of Recession
The U.S. has seen a significant uptick of young people unable to afford to move out on their own since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, when just 32 percent lived with their parents. And if you look beyond college years to the 23-28 range, the number living with parents leapt by more than 25 percent bewteen 2007 and 2011, according to the Census Bureau. Clearly, the ongoing jobs crisis is a major cause: 63 percent of Millennials had jobs in 2012, down from 70 percent in 2007. Young people continue to face a jobs crisis even as the economy improves, as Catherine Ruetschlin and Tamara Draut of the public policy think tank Demos have found. They are facing a deficit of 4 million jobs, with African Americans and Hispanics worst hit.
Interestingly, according to the Pew poll, it’s the young men who are having the hardest time moving out. Forty percent of young men are currently living at home, compared to just 32 percent of young women. Men suffered the biggest job losses in the financial crisis, but they also gained the most post-recession jobs. There may be cultural factors operating in the fact that more young men stay home, including less expectations that they will contribute to chores or face close supervision.
Even if a young person is lucky enough to have a job, the work may be temporary, part-time and/or poorly compensated. Many young people, particularly those eager to pursue careers in journalism, finance and other highly competitive fields, work as unpaid or underpaid interns, as Ross Perlin documents in his bookIntern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. New research reveals that nearly half of graduating college students have done unpaid internships, and only 37 percent of them end up receiving job offers. The numbers of unpaid and paid internships — many of which offer only small stipends — are rising.
Trying to work and pay back student loans at the same time makes coming up with rent a daunting challenge. Student debt, which we already knew was astronomical, quadrupling from just $240 billion in 2003 to more than $1 trillion today, turns out to be even worse than we thought, according to findings from Demos. Two-thirds of seniors leave college with an average of $26,600 in student loans, and the financial burden holds them back in a number of ways. They have trouble saving, and even when they are able to stash away enough money for a mortgage, young people with debt have to pay a higher interest rate than those without it.
Families Under Stress
Certainly there are cultural differences in the perception of what it means for young adults to be living at home, and some may see extended families living under one roof as a good thing, with individuals sharing resources and support. But the Pew research shows that only 35 percent of Millennials living at home actually pay rent, and 25 percent don’t contribute at all to household expenses.
Parents with little to spare have to put off retirement and dig into savings to support children they hoped would land a decent job after graduation. For all the blather about college not being worth the cost, those with a bachelor’s degrees are still in better shape than those with only a high school diploma, according to the Pew poll. Forty percent of those with a high school education or less live with their parents, versus 18 percent of college grads.
In researching this article, I contacted both young people and parents who have adult children living at home. The challenges of continuing to live at home are heartbreaking, not only to individuals, but to entire families. A health problem, a divorce or a pregnancy can send young people who thought they had made it on their own back to their parents’ homes.
Mitch D. is currently looking for a job while living with his parents. He did two years of community college, taking a break from his education due to a serious health crisis, which was covered by Medicaid. Now that he is healthy, Mitch has been kicked off the Medicaid rolls and does not have any insurance. When I asked him how he felt, he wrote to me that he felt hopeful, but his words betrayed a sense of crimped expectations: “I have good people around me and I’ll eventually go to a 4 yr college. Just trying to find a menial job for now.”
Victor L.’s 18-year-old son has autism, and is living at home. He landed a job on a paper delivery route and is looking for something better, but as his father put it, they’re seeing “lots of applications to jobs but no hiring.” The family is assisted by a good disability program, but finances are still shaky. “We save when we can,” writes Victor, but he is scared about the rising cost of groceries and other expenses.
One young woman told me on Twitter that she is divorced with two kids, and the combination of high rents and low pay has forced her to seek shelter with her parents. Another, Georgette K., explained that she was 25 and just had to move back in with her parents after seven years on her own. The reason? Dead-end minimum wage jobs. Her words capture the pain many young people feel about their situation and the strain on family life:
“I feel hopeless, actually. Our relationship has been strained for many years. Also, I highly value my independence. It’s been 8 months now, & I feel like I’m never going to get out on my own again. It’s like I’m stuck in a time warp. Feels like I’m 16 all over again…except worse.”
When asked about the phenomenon of adult children living at home, one mom quipped, “They’re supposed to leave?” The child in her house just turned 30.
When young people are stuck living with their parents, the entire economy suffers.
The reasons are numerous. To start with, our bad economy is being driven by low demand; that is, the inability of people to pay for goods and services. When young people don’t form households, they aren’t buying microwaves and TVs. This, in turn, affects businesses, which respond by not hiring workers, or getting rid of current employees.
Unemployed or under-employed young people are a terrible waste of human capital and lower the productive capacity of the nation. When they start their careers late, they tend to have lower wages and greater odds of future joblessness than those who don’t. The lost tax revenues that result spell trouble, as does a greater demand for government-provided services such as healthcare and welfare payments. Bloomberg senior economist Joseph Brusuelas estimates that the youth unemployment crisis may cost the U.S. a staggering $18 billion over the next decade. He calls his estimate “conservative.”
A scarred, anxious generation is in dire need of vigorous government intervention. America’s youth unemployment situation is among the worst of large, wealthy economies, yet the response of the Obama administration to this crisis has been utterly inadequate. Of all economic demons, youth unemployment is one of the simplest to slay from a policy perspective — if there is leadership available to make that happen.
For example, the government could introduce broad job-creation measures focused on getting young people back to work. It could adequately support the kinds of spending that will stimulate job growth. It could focus on public spending as investment that pays off tremendous future dividends rather than a waste of money.
But it hasn’t. Why? Part of the problem is the influence of the faulty economy theory promoted in Washington that serves only the wealthy.
For the better part of three decades, the popular — and completely baseless — “skills mismatch” theory has dominated public policy. This is a blame-the-victim argument promoted by conservative economists and corporate chieftains which holds that there are enough jobs if only young people had the right skills or the right education.
This myth has been repeatedly debunked by researchers as the Wharton School of Finance, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the University of California-Berkeley, and others (see Peter Cappelli’s “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs”). The proof is in the numbers: if businesses faced a skills shortage, we’d expect to see wages in some sectors rising rapidly as employers compete for a limited number of workers, but we certainly haven’t seen that happening. Yet President Obama has repeated the skills-mismatch nonsense many times over the course of his tenure, including in his 2012 State of the Union speech. Telling young people to just “go get some skills!” is sounding increasingly hollow and cruel in the face of a still-growing crisis.
The Obama administration has also been hampered in its response to the youth jobs crisis by austerity policies based on the discredited theory that debt, rather than lack of demand, is the problem driving a bad economy. Such theories have consumed most of the Republican Party, but many in the Democratic leadership have bought into this economic mythology. Policies which focus on slashing government investment, vital services and often jobs only exacerbate the demand problem and worsen the human catastrophe of unemployment.
The folly of austerity has already played out viciously in Europe and ought to provide a cautionary tale. But despite the fact that the favorite academic research of austerity hawks has been exposed as deeply flawed (the infamous work of Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff) the voices of austerity-pushers like Alan Simpson and Erksine Bowles, co-chairmen of the President’s wrong-headed deficit-reduction commission, still echo throughout Washington. The pair recentlypublished an op-ed once again calling for curtailed government investment and cuts to the social safety net — just the sort of thing to drive more young people to desperation.
Eventually, the failure to address the catastrophic situation facing young people leads to social unrest. When young adults have tried hard to get work, but find instead not only a lack of jobs, but an array of useless or bought politicians and greedy bankers set against them, they begin to experience rage. This has been observed all over the world, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement. When young people have nothing left to lose, they start to lose it.
- Boomerang Babies: Record Numbers of Young Adults Live with Parents at Terrible Cost (alternet.org)
- Why moving back in with my parents at 24 was the right decision (metronews.ca)
- Record 21.6 Million Young Adults Live With Parents (aarp.org)
- Study: Record Number 21 Million Young Adults Living With Parents (washington.cbslocal.com)
- Record: 21 Million Young Adults Living With Parents (iowntheworld.com)
- Record Number Of Young Adults Living With Parents (personalliberty.com)
- Pampered And Spoiled (eschatonblog.com)
- News Flash for the Left: Young People Matter and Your Big-Government Policies Hurt Us (heritageaction.com)
- When Parents Throw a Boomerang! (retireinstyleblog.com)
- 21 Million Adults Now Living with Their Parents (blackchristiannews.com)
Conservatives urge GOP leaders to be bold, prepare to go over cliff
By Erik Wasson – 12/23/12
Conservative activists who helped doom Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “Plan B” say Republicans must be prepared to go over the fiscal cliff to force President Obama to reach a deal that includes no tax hikes.
The activists say Boehner and other GOP leaders have been too scared about suffering politically if the nation goes over the cliff and $500 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts are triggered in January.
Now that Boehner’s “Plan B” legislation has failed, they say Republicans should be empowered to make big demands and stop caving to Obama out of fear. They argue it is Obama who has something to fear if the economy slides into a recession because of tax increases and spending cuts, and the GOP that has leverage.
“I think Obama is very mindful of his legacy and is horrified of going over the cliff,” said Andy Roth of the Club for Growth. “Going over the cliff might be a signal that needs to be sent to the president, that he needs to play ball.”
He argued that President Clinton was forced to become a less liberal president after Speaker Newt Gingrich shut down the government in 1995.
“Clinton would not play ball with Newt until Newt shut the government down,” Roth said.
Several polls, however, suggest Republicans are in danger of being blamed by the public for a failure to prevent the tax hikes and spending cuts.
A Pew Research Center survey out last week found that 55 percent of those surveyed say Obama was making a serious effort to solve the fiscal cliff problem, but only 32 percent said Republican leaders were doing so.
A /NBC News survey found that 65 percent of those surveyed view the GOP negatively compared to 35 percent who view the Democratic Party negatively. That poll found 24 percent would blame the GOP if the fiscal cliff occurs, compared to 19 percent who would blame Obama.
It also is not conventional wisdom that the GOP benefitted from the government shutdown fight between Clinton and Gingrich. Some argue the shutdown backfired and led to Clinton’s reelection in 1996.
Conservatives also argue Republicans will see their brand diminished by agreeing to anything that could be labeled a tax hike.
Boehner’s bill would have extended Bush-era tax rates on all annual income under $1 million, but conservatives said it raised taxes since rates on income more than $1 million would have gone up.
“I think it is certainly better to go over the fiscal cliff than to have the Republican party deny the American people to have one party that stands for lower taxes and another party that doesn’t,” Michael Needham of Heritage Action said last week.
Freedomworks initially backed Plan B as a negotiating tactic but reversed course last week and, like the Club for Growth, announced it would score votes on the legislation.
“The worst thing that Republicans can do is raise taxes,” Matt Kibbe of Freedomworks said Friday. “If Obama wants to raise taxes he can do that but Republicans shouldn’t give him cover.
“If Obama wants to go over the cliff, let him own that,” Kibbe said.
Roth argued Republicans should be willing to stretch the fight into 2013. Economists argue the ill effects of allowing tax hikes and spending cuts to go into effect will grow over time as more money is taken out of people’s pockets.
“They could take this into the New Year and extract a lot of very pro-growth entitlement reforms but I don’t think they are willing to go that far,” added Roth.
“The best thing we can do is extend the current rates for six to 10 months while we get pro-growth tax reform. The president is the only one who can propose that,” said Kibbe.
Dan Holler of Heritage Action said that Republicans now need to sell Medicare premium support and other bold ideas to get them into a fiscal cliff solution.
“When is the last time you heard Republicans make the case for Medicare premium support? When is the last time you heard Republicans talking about ending cronyism in the tax code? This is what Republicans need to focus on and commit to in the coming weeks and months. Until they do, no deal will be worth cutting,” he said Friday.
ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell on Friday released a plan for the GOP that involves it increasing its demands of Obama in fiscal cliff talks.
“Speaker Boehner, working in conjunction with Senate Minority Leader McConnell, should craft legislation that gets us on the road to fiscal sanity. This agenda must include four key items: cutting the corporate tax rate, abolishing the immoral “death tax,” real spending cuts, and serious entitlement reforms,” he said in a statement.
“Bring a united GOP front and challenge the president to support this legislation. Offer him the ‘millionaire tax’ if he will. If he doesn’t accept this, it proves he’s not serious. At that point the GOP should walk away, declaring it’s the president who now owns the impending disaster,” he said.
- Conservatives urge GOP leaders to be bold, prepare to go over cliff (thehill.com)
- Conservatives can wreck economy or stand aside (examiner.com)
- Obama to Boehner: ‘I Will Use Inaugural Address, State of the Union to Blame GOP’ (conservativeread.com)
- Tea Party activists double down against Boehner and ‘fiscal cliff’ deal (newsday.com)
- ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Leaves Boehner a Wounded Speaker (abcnews.go.com)
- John Boehner: from humble origin, fiscal cliff may be his undoing (guardian.co.uk)
- Tea Party Activists Unwilling To Bend On Taxes (huffingtonpost.com)
- Congress in Tizzy; One GOP Leader: Obama ‘Eager to Go Over the Cliff’ (bloomberg.com)
- Sen. Barrasso: Obama sees a ‘political victory’ in going over the cliff (thehill.com)
- Fiscal Cliff Leaves John Boehner A Wounded Speaker (huffingtonpost.com)
A vote for the future or for the past?
By Harold Meyerson, Published: October 30
The 2012 presidential election is fundamentally a contest between our future and our past. Barack Obama’s America is the America that will be; Mitt Romney’s is the America that was. And the distance between the two is greater, perhaps, than in any election we’ve had since the Civil War.
The demographic bases of the rival coalitions couldn’t be more different. Monday’s poll from the Pew Research Center is just the latest to show Obama with a decisive lead (in this case, 21 percentage points) among voters younger than 30. Obama’s margin declines to six points among voters ages 30 through 44, and he breaks even with Romney among voters ages 45 through 64. Romney’s home turf is voters 65 and older; among those, he leads Obama by 19 points.Loading…
Age polarization is not specific to the presidential election. On a host of issues, as diverse as gay and lesbian rights and skepticism about the merits of capitalism, polls have shown that younger voters are consistently more tolerant and well to the left of their elders.
Nor is age the only metric through which we can differentiate our future from our past. The other is race, as the nation grows more racially diverse (or, more bluntly, less white) each year. While the 2000 Census put whites’ share of the U.S. population at 69.1 percent, that share had declined to 63.7 percent in the 2010 Census, while theproportion of Hispanics rose from 12.5 percent to 16.3 percent. In raw numbers, total white population increased by just 1.2 percent during the decade, while the African American segment grew by 12.3 percent and the Hispanic share by 43 percent. Demographers predict that the white share of the U.S. population will fall beneath 50 percent in the 2050 Census.
Rather than trying to establish a foothold among America’s growing minorities, however, Romney and the Republicans have decided to forgo an appeal to Hispanic voters by opposing legislation that would grant legal status to undocumented immigrants brought here as children and by backing legislation that effectively requires Hispanics to carry documentation papers in certain states. Republicans seek a majority through winning an ever-higher share of white voters. The Washington Post reported last week that its polling showed the greatest racial gap between the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates since the 1988 election, with Romney favored by 60 percent of white voters and Obama by 80 percent of minority voters (a figure that may prove low, if three-quarters of the Hispanic vote goes to Obama, as some other polls suggest it will). The problem for Republicans, of course, is that the minority vote is a far larger share of the total vote today than it was 24 years ago.
By repeatedly estranging minorities and opposing social policies favored by the young, the Republicans have opted for a King Canute strategy: standing on the shore and commanding the tide to stop. Republicans with an eye toward the future, most notably George W. Bush and Karl Rove, have urged the party to embrace immigration reform, but the base is rabidly anti-immigrant and its antipathy is reinforced daily by talk radio hosts and Fox News chatterers who depict an America under siege by alien forces.
Should Republicans prevail in this election and seek to build a more-than-one-term plurality, they will confront a stark choice: Either Romney must persuade his party to reverse its stance on immigration, or the party must seek to extend the scope of its voter-suppression efforts. Put another way, they must try to either accommodate the future or suppress it.
Accommodation with diversity and modernity, however, is simply not part of the Republican DNA. Today’s Republican Party has largely cornered the market on religious fundamentalists, even as the number of GOP scientists has dwindled (a 2009 Pew poll of scientists found that just 6 percent self-identified as Republicans, while 55 percent said they were Democrats). Many of the largest Republican funders come from economic sectors hardly distinguished by significant productivity increases or their contributions to mass prosperity (casino gambling, Wall Street), while Silicon Valley remains more Democratic turf. (By the way, all those messages Republican CEOs have been sending their employees , predicting layoffs should Obama be reelected? Have any of them promised raises if Romney wins? Just askin’.)
Two Americas are facing off in next week’s election. By their makeup, the Democrats are bound to move, if haltingly, into the future, while the Republicans parade proudly into the pre-New Deal past — some of it mythic, lots of it ugly. The differences could not be clearer.
- Mario Piperni and the Ugly Truth (seniorsforademocraticsociety.wordpress.com)
- Meyerson: Mitt Romney’s moderate facade obscures GOP’s radicalism (newsday.com)
- Harold Meyerson Hates White Southerners (whitenewsnow.com)
- Harold Meyerson: Challenge to the rich in a stagnant future – The Washington Post (jdeanicite.typepad.com)
- Have White Voters Been Taken for Granted? (prospect.org)
- Meyerson: Romney’s new moderation conceals radical party (goerie.com)
- What Kind of Socialist Is Barack Obama? (bobusnr.wordpress.com)
- Bootstrapped Self-Sufficiency (cafehayek.com)
- Harold Meyerson on the Latest Pathology of Washington DC (delong.typepad.com)
- A Great Story about the Strike (dianeravitch.net)
The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace Paul Ryan’s Cruelty
Scientific research into the way we think explains the reasons decent people wind up supporting horrific policies.
August 19, 2012
Earlier this year, Democratic operatives looking for the best way to define Mitt Romney discovered something interesting about Paul Ryan’s budget. The New York Times reported that when the details of his proposals were run past focus groups, they found that the plan is so cruel that voters “simply refused to believe any politician would do such a thing.”
In addition to phasing out the Earned Income Tax Credit that keeps millions of American families above the poverty line and cutting funding for children’s healthcare in half, Jonathan Cohndescribed the “America that Paul Ryan envisions” like this:
Many millions of working-age Americans would lose health insurance. Senior citizens would anguish over whether to pay their rent or their medical bills, in a way they haven’t since the 1960s. Government would be so starved of resources that, by 2050, it wouldn’t have enough money for core functions like food inspections and highway maintenance.
Ryan’s “roadmap” may be the least serious budget plan ever to emerge in Washington, but it is reflective of how far to the right the GOP has moved in recent years. According to a recent study of public attitudes conducted by the Pew Research Center, in 1987, 62 percent of Republicans said “the government should take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” but that number has now dropped to just 40 percent (PDF). That attitude was on display during a GOP primary debate last fall when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked Ron Paul what fate should befall a healthy person without health insurance who finds himself suddenly facing a catastrophic illness. “Congressman,” Blitzer pressed after Paul sidestepped the question, “are you saying that society should just let him die?” Before Paul had a chance to respond, the audience erupted in cheers, with some shouting, “yeah!”
Ryan’s motives aren’t purely ideological; he’s been a magnet for dollars from big GOP donors for years (the $5.4 million in his House campaign account is among the largest war-chests for any representative this cycle). But what about the ordinary people who embrace this kind of ‘screw ’em, I got mine’ ideology? How can presumably decent people on the Right – people who care about their families and their communities – appear to be so cruel? Don’t they grasp the devastating real-world consequences of what it means for a society to just “let him die”?
While some answers to that question are relatively straightforward, even intuitive, research into the interplay between cognition and ideology offers a deeper understanding of what appears on its face to be an extraordinary deficit of basic human empathy.
The simplest explanation for this apparent disconnect is the increasing polarization of our media consumption. People on the right tend to consume conservative media, and if you get your news from Fox and listen to Limbaugh, you too would think that Ryan’s roadmap is simply a “serious” proposal to cut the deficit (never mind that it would cut taxes at the top by so much that the budget wouldn’t be balanced for decades to come).
But it goes a bit deeper than that. The contempt a good number of Americans hold for the social welfare state has long been understood through the prism of race. In his classic book, Why Americans Hate Welfare, Martin Gilens found that while significant majorities of Americans told pollsters that they wanted more public spending to fight poverty, many were opposed to welfare programs because of widespread “perceptions that welfare recipients are undeserving and blacks are lazy.”
That finding has been confirmed in a number of studies since then. But more recently, psychological research – and some neurobiological studies – have found something else: Liberals and conservatives don’t just differ in their opinions, they have fundamentally different ways of processing information, which in turn leads them to hold markedly divergent sets of facts.
Even more frustrating for those who view politics as a rational pursuit of one’s self-interest, facts don’t actually matter that much. We begin evaluating policies emotionally, according to a deeply ingrained moral framework, and then our brains often work backward, filling in – or inventing — “facts” that conform to that framework.
Dueling Morality Tales
It’s long been understood that people evaluate policy ideas through partisan and ideological lenses. That’s how, for example, a set of conservative, market-oriented healthcare reforms cooked up at the Heritage Foundation and pushed by Republicans for years can suddenly become a Maoist plot when embraced by a Democratic administration.
But according to George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist at UC Berkeley, one has to look beyond mere partisanship to really get the differences in how we process information. Lakoff describes what might be called a hierarchy of understanding, beginning with our conceptions of morality and then evaluating the details through that lens.
In The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic, Lakoff and co-author Elisabeth Wehling explain that the human “brain is structured in terms of what are called ‘cascades.’”
A cascade is a network of neurons that links many brain circuits. All of the linked circuits must be active at once to produce a given understanding.
Simply put, the brain does not handle single ideas as separate entities: bigger context, a logical construct within which the idea is defined, is evoked in order to grasp its meaning.
Cascades are central to political understanding, because they characterize the logic that structures that understanding.
While liberals and conservatives often see their counterparts as horrible people these days, the reality, according to Lakoff, is that they’re processing information through very different, and often diametrically opposed moral frameworks.
In a recent interview with AlterNet, Lakoff said, “Conservatives have a very different view of democracy, which follows their moral system.”
The basic idea in terms of economics is that democracy gives people the liberty to seek their self interest and their own well-being without worrying or being responsible for the well-being or interest of anybody else. Therefore they say everybody has individual responsibility, not social responsibility, therefore you’re on your own. If you make it that’s wonderful. That’s what the market is about. If you don’t make it, that’s your problem.
But it’s not just about the moral imperative to be self-sufficient – that’s always been central to the right’s moral worldview. But beginning in the early 1960s, with the advent of the Right’s deeply flawed “culture of poverty” narrative*, a defining morality tale about the public sector has been about how it does nothing but foster “dependency.” This, according to today’s conservatives, makes virtually every form of government intervention in the economy profoundly immoral, as it keeps a segment of the population mired in poverty for generations.
This powerful story has only become more deeply entrenched in the conservative worldview with the growing influence of Ayn Rand. Rand wasn’t only a schlock novelist, she was also the progenitor of a sweeping “moral philosophy” that justifies the privilege of the wealthy and demonizes not only the slothful, undeserving poor but the lackluster middle-classes as well. Her books provided wide-ranging parables of a world made up of “parasites,” “looters” and “moochers” using the levers of government to steal the fruits of her heroes’ labor.
While Ryan recently disavowed Rand’s philosophy, he’s on the record saying that Rand “makes the best case for the morality of democratic capitalism.” On another occasion, he said, “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”
This philosophy is constantly reinforced. According to Lakoff, most people have both liberal and conservative moralities that vie for prominence as our brains process information. One “neural circuit is in mutual opposition to another neural circuit” he told AlterNet, and “each of those two inhibit each other.”
For the Fox News crowd, the circuitry of conservative moralism is charged again and again every day. “When one of those circuits is activated over and over, more than the other, the stronger it gets and the weaker the inactive one gets,” said Lakoff. “The stronger one of these circuits gets, the more influence it’s going to have over various issues.”
Shutting Down the Thinking Brain
Princeton psychologist Daniel Kahneman refined earlier theories about how the brain functions on two levels – one instinctive and very quick, the other slower and more deliberate. He described the first as intuitive processing, or “system one cognition,” and the other as a process of reasoning, or “system two cognition.”
And the key point here is it appears that when system one is active, system two shuts down. Or, to put it another way, when we perceive an issue in emotional terms (system one), we make a quick judgment in which we don’t think much about the details. This is common in our daily lives, but takes on real signifigance in our political culture, and while this tendency isn’t limited to a particular ideology, some research suggests that political conservatives are more likely to rely on the kind of snap judgments associated with system one cognition than liberals.
(In his book, The Republican Brain, Chris Mooney suggests that there may be powerful evolutionary benefits for having an instinctive, knee-jerk process take over at times. If you were an early human wandering on the savanna and heard a rustling noise in the brush, it was to your advantage to instantly assume there’s a lion coming and have your fight-or-flight instinct kick in. If you paused to weigh the evidence of whether or not it might be a lion, there would be a good chance that you wouldn’t pass your genes onto future generations.)
Given the cascade of cognition – from a broad moral frame, to the way a specific issue is framed in our discourse and finally to the nitty-gritty details that most people ignore – and given how the fast, instinctive processing can overwhelm our more deliberative, reasoned cognitive process, it’s easy to understand how so many people on the right could be immune to the real-world consequences of doing things like cutting healthcare for poor children. It simply follows – from the overarching moral frame of dependency — that this kind of “tough love,” while perhaps painful in the near term, is ultimately beneficial for those feeling that pain.
Isn’t That a Contradiction?
It is a contradiction in one sense. But researchers have long observed that humans have an excellent capacity to hold contradictory beliefs. A recent studyat the University of Kent, for example, found that those who believe Princess Diana was murdered are also more likely than most to think her death was faked.
A number of researchers have posited that we stave off painful cognitive dissonance by a process called “motivated reasoning,” whereby we seek out plausible explanations for complex phenomena in order to make things fit into our previously held belief systems.
Drew Westen, Pavel S. Blagov, Keith Harenski, Clint Kilts, and Stephan Hamann at Emory University describe ($$) motivated reasoning as a process by which, “people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.” This, say the researchers, results in “a form of implicit emotion regulation.”
Writing in the New York Times, David Redlawsk, a political scientist at Rutgers, explains that “we are all somewhat impervious to new information, preferring the beliefs in which we are already invested.
We often ignore new contradictory information, actively argue against it or discount its source, all in an effort to maintain existing evaluations. Reasoning away contradictions this way is psychologically easier than revising our feelings. In this sense, our emotions color how we perceive “facts.”
Everyone does this, but some research suggests that political conservatives, perhaps because they are more set in their views, and more averse to cognitive dissonance, tend to display more motivated reasoning than liberals.
When you hear someone like Paul Ryan proposing, for example, to shift $4,700in health costs onto the backs of seniors living at the poverty level by 2022, it’s important to understand that the consequences of those actions – the factual, real-world results of these policies – are often inconsequential to like-minded people on the Right not because they’re (necessarily) bad people, but for the simple reason that the consequences don’t register.
While a half-dozen analyses paint a sharp picture of the cruelty inherent in the Ryan plan, it is this process of motivated reasoning that allows conservatives to simply block out any details that contradict their ideas about the need to avoid fostering a “culture of dependency.”
And here, one of the apparent differences between conservative and liberal cognitive styles comes into play: the “backfire effect.” The term was coined by political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler, who found that when conservatives’ erroneous beliefs were confronted by factual rebuttals, they tended to double-down on those beliefs. The same dynamic wasn’t observed with liberals (they weren’t entirely swayed by the facts, but didn’t show the same tendency to believe false information more strongly after being presented with them).
This is not to suggest that Ryan’s plan – now effectively Romney’s as well, despite some efforts to distance himself from it — won’t prove toxic to most people when they get a sense of what it does. That’s because, as Lakoff notes, there are very few people who hold a primarily conservative or liberal moral framework – most have a bit of both. But it does help explain why seemingly ordinary citizens can embrace such cruel public policies. It also suggests that Ryan’s vision can’t be attacked with facts and figures alone; it has to be challenged with a progressive moral vision of a society that values fairness and understands that in a modern economy, the public sector serves and sustains the private.
- The Conservative Psyche: How Ordinary People Come to Embrace the Cruelty of Paul Ryan and Other Right-Wingers (alternet.org)
- Paul Ryan’s Top 10 Falsehoods and Outrages… from Just His First Week on the Campaign Trail | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Ryan Can’t Get Away from His Anti-Choice Extremism, Even If He Denounces Akin | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider Blasts Paul Ryan for Using his Music Without Permission | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Paul Ryan’s ‘Path to Prosperity’ Is Really a Bad Trip on the Road to Economic Ruin | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- 7 Reasons Why Romney-Ryan’s Desperate Attempts to Spin Medicare Won’t Work | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Why Romney’s Panicked Campaign May Pander Even Harder to the Far Right | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Friday Reads (skydancingblog.com)
- Media Hacks: Why Our National Press Corps Is Failing the Public Abysmally | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
- Romney’s Veep Pick: Paul Ryan, Koch Ally and ‘Right-Wing Social Engineer’ | Alternet (mbcalyn.com)
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
An autographed photo of Mitt Romney at an event in Salem, Va., on June 26.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this.
If this is the Etch A Sketch phase of Mitt Romney’s campaign, he seems to want to freeze it the moment after you shake the toy, before you turn the knobs again: blank.
Mitt Romney wants to run as the generic candidate, the every man and any man, undefined, nonspecific, the other guy, anybody but Obama.
Romney inserts “economy” into every sentence but recoils from specificity like a slug from salt.
The Romney message is that he is the amorphous economic messiah come to save us all from the flailing of the inexperienced and ineffectual president. He can create jobs and make the economy grow, somehow. He can cut government spending and cut taxes, somehow. He can fix immigration and education, somehow. He can do a better job of dealing with the healthcare system and our entitlement programs, somehow.
But how, specifically? Just make him president and all will be revealed, too late for voters to rebel, leaving time only for regret. That is the Romney strategy: Obfuscate and delay. Stay loose and elusive. Hide in the fog until the search party passes.
This is the only way he has a shot because people don’t much like Mitt. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released this week, only 35 percent of Romney supporters say that theirs will be a vote forRomney, rather than against President Obama. Fifty-eight percent say that they’ll be voting more against Obama than for Romney. (For comparison, 72 percent of Obama’s supporters say that they’ll be voting more for Obama than against Romney while only 22 percent said the opposite.)
Furthermore, both Gallup and the Pew Research Center have done polls on the candidates’ personal characteristics and Obama beats Romney on almost every measure except those related to the economy and leadership.
In the Gallup poll released this week, Obama has a double-digit lead over Romney in being likable, understanding the problems Americans face in their daily lives and being trustworthy and honest. Romney leads, but not by as much, on being a decisive leader and an effective manager of government.
In the Pew poll released last week, Obama enjoyed double digit leads on traits like being willing to take unpopular stands and work with the opposing party, having good judgment in a crisis and taking consistent positions. Romney leads, but not by as much, on being able to improve the economy.
Romney’s sole line of attack is a promise constructed of vapors and held together by wishes: He led a company that dramatically increased his wealth, so he can lead a country and nominally increase ours.
There is scant evidence that this is true, but through repetition he hopes to convert wishful thinking into hard truth. In fact, there is growing evidence that Romney’s business experience is littered with closed companies and outsourced jobs.
Last week The Washington Post pointed out:
During the nearly 15 years that Romney was actively involved in running Bain, a private equity firm that he founded, it owned companies that were pioneers in the practice of shipping work from the United States to overseas call centers and factories making computer components, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
According to The Post’s political blog, The Fix, this was the Romney campaign’s response:
“This is a fundamentally flawed story that does not differentiate between domestic outsourcing versus offshoring nor versus work done overseas to support U.S. exports,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “Mitt Romney spent 25 years in the real world economy so he understands why jobs come and they go. As president, he will implement policies that make it easier and more attractive for companies to create jobs here at home. President Obama’s attacks on profit and job creators make it less attractive to create jobs in the U.S.”
“Outsourcing versus offshoring”? What is that? Is one of those when a job self-deports? You can’t be serious, Mr. Romney.
It is in no way clear that Romney’s record as a businessman qualifies him to be anything other than rich. And yet, by keeping his positions as vague as possible and rarely answering a question with any real specificity, he can remain the generic anti-Obama option, and remain competitive.
Frustratingly, this strategy is working. Romney and the president are virtually tied in the polls. Unless the media presses harder for Romney to respond to questions and blasts him when he doesn’t, the country will be in danger, if Romney wins, of gambling on what the policies of the president will be. But this responsibility doesn’t end with the media. Citizens must also demand answers. It is outrageous for Romney to be allowed to worm his way out of providing them.
Romney is cheating the public out of the truth.
- Mitt Romney is working hard to avoid offering any specifics about his policies. – Slate Magazine (mbcalyn.com)
- Obama Well in the Lead Among Hispanic Voters, Romney Falls Further Behind (hispanicallyspeakingnews.com)
- It’s Mitt! Oh No. – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Romney, Sealing Nomination, Steps Up Attack on Obama – NYTimes.com (mbcalyn.com)
- Mitt Romney makes campaign stop in Sterling, Virginia (wjla.com)
- Limbaugh Blasts Romney Response (huffingtonpost.com)
- Poll: Obama, Romney lack clear plans for nation – Washington Post (blog) (washingtonpost.com)
- Poll: Romney trounced in Massachusetts (dailykos.com)
- Actual Time Magazine Headline: “One-Note Mitt: Is Romney Too Focused On The Economy?” (minx.cc)
- Mitt Romney Looking Longingly At People (buzzfeed.com)
(CNN) – The latest poll assessing the impact of allegations of sexual misconduct on Herman Cain’s GOP presidential campaign shows that a plurality of Americans think the claims are true.
39% of those polled who have heard a lot about the allegations said they thought the claims were true, according to the Pew Research Center poll. Twenty-four percent said the claims were false and 36% said they didn’t know.
The poll, which was done before a Monday news conference in which a woman alleged that Cain had groped her in a parked car, showed a majority of respondents were familiar with the allegations against Cain. 51% said they had heard a lot about the accusations, while 24% said they had heard a little and 23% said they had heard nothing at all.
When separated by party affiliation, the numbers diverged on whether people thought the allegations were true.
51% of those polled who were Democrats or leaned toward Democrats said they thought the claims were true, while 29% of Republicans said they thought the accusations were true.
When asked to characterize the media coverage of Cain, 39% of Republicans and 51% of Democrats said the news media had been fair.
Among the sexes, there weren’t significant differences of opinion on the validity of the allegations against Cain. 40% of women and 38% of men said they thought the claims were true.
The poll was taken by telephone November 3-6 among 1,005 adults. The sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
- Poll: 39% think Cain accusations are true (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Truth squad at the GOP debate – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- CNN Poll: Majority say neither party’s policies good for country – CNN Political Ticker – CNN.com Blogs (mbcalyn.wordpress.com)
- Cain to address new new claim of sexual misconduct (news.blogs.cnn.com)
- Cain to address new claim of sexual misconduct (cnn.com)
- IA-2012 Caucus: 20% Cain, 20% Romney, 16% Gingrich (9-9-9 Fund/JMC Enterprises 11/2) (huffingtonpost.com)
- More Think Cain Allegations are True (politicalwire.com)
- Romney says Cain allegations should be treated ‘seriously’ (thehill.com)
- Cain to address new claim of sexual misconduct (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)
- Cain to address new claim of sexual misconduct (news.blogs.cnn.com)