So, are you a cat-loving, fusion cuisine-eating, Mac-toting, Metropolitan Museum patron? Or do you prefer dogs, steaks, PCs and Times Square? The answer could determine if you’re a liberal or conservative. Time magazine has published a synopsis of the results of a study of 220,000 people who answered an apolitical 12-question survey and then volunteered their political preferences. You can go to http://time.com/mypolitics to read all the questions and take the quiz for yourself. Relying on several sociological studies, Time determined a statistical correlation between a number of traits such as openness to new experiences — fusion cuisine — and higher levels of self-expression to those with a liberal bias, and things like conscientiousness, punctuality and self-control to conservatives. Time also found higher connections between respect for authority, obedience — preferring dogs to cats — and loyalty among conservatives than liberals. Likewise, liberals tend toward less conventional notions of relationships and tradition.
Time admits that “each of these items is only a weak predictor of ideology” and that people are highly variable. But by adding the responses together and weighting some more than others it found a “moderate predictive power.” Now those of you who frequent my columns may be surprised to learn that my answers have led Time to conclude I am 81 percent conservative and 19 percent liberal. That either says something about the squishiness of the survey or my own schizophrenia. But it also goes to the predisposition of the authors that things like expecting kids to respect authority and being proud of your country — with which I agree — are somehow exclusively conservative values. I don’t know if this is a result of a liberal bias presuming these are unwholesome traits or a conservative bias suggesting liberals are slugs. In either case, stop it! Regardless of the narrative from the right that liberals are unpatriotic, loath capitalism and are apologists to the world for America’s overreaching, such observations are unjustified. Liberals often approach those subjects with a broader vision encompassing implications that conservatives tend to downplay, such as America’s mixed history, the interconnection among capital, labor and environment, and the broader good of humanity. Conservatives, on the other hand, tend to like less ambivalent answers. The problem is we don’t live in a simplistic world. It is gray, not black and white. But that’s also their forte; focusing on the essential stuff. A combination of conservative focus and liberal vision are indispensable to good domestic and foreign policy. This is what America is forfeiting in the current hyper-partisan lunacy. While the survey won’t win any awards for scrupulousness, it’s good to remind ourselves how much our political choices are influenced by our temperaments; that there’s a psychological element at play humanizes an opponent as an individual personality and not an evil villain with a malevolent agenda. I also scored conservative points for using a PC instead of a Mac; having an organized desk; and not being a foodie. But that’s not me being a conservative. That’s just me being an old fogey. Marty Moore is a freelance writer living in Port Richey.