Both sides of the ideological divide caricature the other, but those on the far left are the most guilty
This new study featured 2,212 visitors to the projectimplicit.org website, a research portal that focuses on “the gap between intentions and actions.” About half identified themselves as liberals, while 500 placed themselves in one of three conservative categories, and 538 defined themselves as moderates.
They were first asked a series of questions to determine their own moral attitudes. For instance, to measure how strongly they believe in loyalty to one’s group, they were asked the extent to which they agreed with such statements as “It is more important to be a team player than to express oneself.”
They then completed similar surveys, offering not their own feelings, but those of a “typical liberal” or “typical conservative.” The researchers compared their assumptions to the answers provided by actual liberals and conservatives, as well as to a different, nationally representative sample of Americans.
“Extreme liberals exaggerated the moral political differences the most, and moderate conservatives did so the least,” Graham and his colleagues report. “Liberals were the least accurate about conservatives and about liberals.”
Liberals tended to stereotype conservatives as uncaring, rather than realize that conservatives’ genuine concerns about harm and fairness are tempered by other moral values that have less value to the left, such as loyalty and respect for authority.
Distorting the picture further, liberals tend to underestimate the degree to which their fellow liberals take those “conservative” values into account when making moral evaluations. Although conservatives did this to some degree, liberals showed a stronger tendency to stereotype their political soul mates, assuming an exaggerated level of ideological purity.