WHOOPS: Remember When They Said Conservatives Are Psychos? Yeah, About That ...

There was some buzz not too long ago about a study that concluded that people who leaned authoritarian or toward “psychoticism” also leaned Republican, while those were warm and cuddly ended up being Democrats. It was all the rage in liberal circles of course, confirmation of what they just deep down knew all along. They are sane, we are crazy. Only, whoopsie, they got it backward.


“Boy is our face red.” Stephen Hayward at Powerline noted this morning the major error.

Here is the original finding:

In line with our expectations, P [for “Psychoticism”] (positively related to tough-mindedness and authoritarianism) is associated with social conservatism and conservative military attitudes. Intriguingly, the strength of the relationship between P and political ideology differs across sexes. P‘s link with social conservatism is stronger for females while its link with military attitudes is stronger for males. We also find individuals higher in Neuroticism are more likely to be economically liberal. Furthermore, Neuroticism is completely unrelated to social ideology, which has been the focus of many in the field. Finally, those higher in Social Desirability are also more likely to express socially liberal attitudes.

You see? The liberals are the good guys. Which is “in line with their expectations!” Only it turns out the authors of the study have had to issue a correction to their data. A minor thing really. Merely that it’s the opposite way around.

The authors regret that there is an error in the published version of “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies” American Journal of Political Science 56 (1), 34–51. The interpretation of the coding of the political attitude items in the descriptive and preliminary analyses portion of the manuscript was exactly reversed.


We should note that “psychoticism” is associated with being hard-headed, bossy, impulsive … you know, a dick. Whereas “social desirability” refers to people that get along with others, make nice, are happy .. you know, they cool. The scientists expected dicks to be conservative, and cool peeps to be liberal. But nope. Flip it.

The study, “Correlation not Causation: The Relationship between Personality Traits and Political Ideologies” was written up by the New York Times and shared relentlessly. Embarrassing.

Considering the magnitude of the error, the guile of those who shared it, and the gullibility of the intended audience, maybe those “conservatives are dumber” studies liberals spurt out every few years should get a second look. Like with a mirror.


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