New psychology research provides evidence that Republicans tend to have slightly more psychopathic personality traits compared to Democrats.
“Psychopathic traits with their associated empathy deficits appear relevant to the discussion of political attitudes and political candidates,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
For their study, the researchers surveyed 304 American adults using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The participants completed measures of psychopathy, empathy, political beliefs, and political affiliation.
The study was based on the triarchic conceptualization of psychopathy, which breaks psychopathy down into three facets: boldness, meanness, and disinhibition.
The researchers found that psychopathic boldness and meanness tended to be higher in Republicans compared to Democrats. Disinhibition was not related to political affiliation.
In other words, Republicans were more likely to agree with statements such as “I don’t mind if someone I dislike gets hurt”, “I taunt people just to stir things up,” “I can get over things that would traumatize others,” and “I never worry about making a fool of myself with others.”
But whether people agreed with statements like “I get in trouble for not considering the consequences of my actions” was unrelated to their politics.
The researchers also found that boldness was associated with conservative opinions on economic issues, while meanness was associated with conservative opinions on social issues.
Boldness was linked to opposition to government spending, immigration, and gay rights. Meanness was associated with opposition to universal healthcare, marijuana legalization, equal pay for women, and affirmative action.
But the study — like all research — includes some limitations. The study used a single measure of psychopathy, and the differences between Republicans and Democrats were statistically significant but relatively small.
“Considering the political success of presidential candidates with higher levels of psychopathic traits (i.e., fearless dominance) in the US (Lilienfeld et al., 2012), it may be surmised that popular political candidates championing conservative opinions (e.g., restricting free speech and immigration, decreasing gun control and taxation) may possess elevated psychopathic traits,” the authors of the study concluded.
The study, “Psychopathic traits and politics: Examining affiliation, support of political issues, and the role of empathy“, was authored by Olivia C. Preston and Joye C. Anestis.