Conservative/liberal character

Broad generalizations about people of certain political views are always good for an entertaining wrangle…so here’s a provocative article on The Ideological Animal:

  • Liberals are messier than conservatives. Their rooms have more clutter, more color. Conservatives’ rooms are better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books and their books are on a greater variety of topics.
  • Compared to liberals, conservatives are less tolerant of ambiguity, a trait researchers say is exemplified when George Bush says things like, “Look, my job isn’t to try to nuance. My job is to tell people what I think,” and “I’m the decider.”
  • Conservatives have a greater fear of death.
  • Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.
  • Conservatives are higher on conscientiousness, which includes neatness, rule-following, duty, and orderliness.
  • Conservatives have a greater need to reach a decision quickly and stick to it.
  • When people are prompted to think about death–a state of mind psychologists call mortality salience–they actually become more conservative.
  • Studies show that when people are prompted to think about 9/11, their support for President Bush goes up.
  • Conservatives are more likely to have been insecure as kids, whereas liberals are more likely to have been confident as kids.

It begins with some comments about 9/11 Republicans, people who were driven rapidly to the Republican party by fear, but it does admit that there’s more to it than that.

What travel and
education have in common is that they make the differences
between people seem less threatening. “You become less
bothered by the idea that there is uncertainty in the world,”
explains Jost.

That’s why the more educated people are, the more
liberal they become–but only to a point. Once people begin
pursuing certain types of graduate degrees, the curve
flattens. Business students, for instance, become more conservative in their views toward minorities. As they become
more established, doctors and lawyers tend to protect their
economic interests by moving to the right. The findings
demonstrate that conservative conversions are fueled not
only by fear, but by other factors as well. And if the November election was any indicator, the pendulum that swung
so forcefully to the right after 9/11 may be swinging back.


  1. says

    This is wonderful news! So the foot-high piles of dreck that I’ve been avoiding cleaning out of my office aren’t a sign of a serious moral failing at all. They’re just a byproduct of my being intellectually curious, excitement-seeking and creative for its own sake.

  2. Caledonian says

    Unless I missed the article’s explanation, I presume the ‘conservative’ and ‘liberal’ categories were determined by self-identification – in which case, I’d like to see studies performed outside of the United States, as other places in the world attach very different meanings to those words.

    I would especially like to know what connection between self-identification and the classical meanings of those words holds in America and elsewhere.

  3. Karley says

    “Liberals are higher on openness, which includes intellectual curiosity, excitement-seeking, novelty, creativity for its own sake, and a craving for stimulation like travel, color, art, music, and literature.”

    If this is true, and if I ever run into another conservative complaining about a liberal bias in higher learning, I now have data to back up my hunch: liberals just like learning more. Deal.

  4. CJColucci says

    Oh, if only I could throw the next several users of the “pendulum” metaphor into a pit.

  5. Hank Fox says

    Studies show that when people are prompted to think about 9/11, their support for President Bush goes up.

    And don’t think Our Glorious Leader doesn’t know it.

    Conservatives are more likely to have been insecure as kids, whereas liberals are more likely to have been confident as kids.

    I can imagine the supposed mechanism behind it, but I’m not sure this one holds up – I was insecure as hell as a kid. And I have this picture of all the jocks and cheerleaders, the seemingly uber-confident kids, all becoming conservatives.

  6. Caledonian says

    I can imagine the supposed mechanism behind it, but I’m not sure this one holds up – I was insecure as hell as a kid. And I have this picture of all the jocks and cheerleaders, the seemingly uber-confident kids, all becoming conservatives.

    Outwardly secure people often protect inner vulnerabilities. And frankly, one counterexample does not invalidate a statistical finding.

  7. AnthonyK says

    Whoa PZ! Your new I-won’t-be-blogging-much-anymore approach has produced some ace posts, and apparently just as many as before!
    Respec’ man, Respec’
    (Oh and good luck with the book – I can’t wait to read it, whatever it’t about.)

  8. GreenNeck says

    One thing we could add is that rural people tend to be more conservative (the Red State thing) and as someone whose universe straddles both worlds (from an engineer/scientist in ultra-liberal Toronto, ON to a construction worker in conservative rural northern Ontario) I was curious why.

    But after a while I found it’s not so much a rural thing. It’s more a profession thing. Even here people like teachers, nurses and bureaucrats tend to be Liberal. The conservatives are typically tradespeople and farmers (and I would add, more often men than women). There are just more of those folks up here, as compared to a big city.

    We could argue they have less education (the intellectual curiosity factor above) but some of those trades can be non-trivial. If you don’t believe it, just try to tune up your electronics-riddled car. Or even install a garage door.

    But one thing those trades have in common is a need for certainty. You can’t be too creative in those fields. Doing so usually ends up in a ruined crop, a blown engine or having the building inspector ordering you to redo your work. Pretty bad stuff when you try to make a living at those things.

    So I think doing that type of work will turn you into a conservative.

  9. Caledonian says

    Liberals piss in the shower.

    Presumably at least one conservative pisses on thread’s comment sections. Can the trollery, please.

  10. nitus says

    From over here, PZ, it doesn’t look as though there’s a significant ideological difference between the Republicans and the Democrats – different demographics, or target audience, at best.

    Your so-called conservatives are conservative in soundbites that target the social right, yet spend money like drunken sailors; your so-called leftists don’t seem to stand for anything in particular, but hover near the center when they want to get voted for.

    If you want to try to apply such labels as “left” and “right” to American politics, you’re first going to have to revise the electoral procedures to be proportional – so that x% votes means x% electoral votes. Of course, to do that you’d have to revise your constitution to lower the majority needed to form a government.

    General consensus in the States seems to be something like, “what do you mean, electoral reform???? This is AMERICA!”


    Until you get actual democracy happening [the last few federal elections should have made someone notice that your electoral system is antiquated and ill-thought-out, but instead led to a number of half-baked conspiracy theories] I’m afraid that it’s just a case of “same crap, different bank.”

  11. Great White Wonder says

    As they become more established, doctors and lawyers tend to protect their economic interests by moving to the right. The findings demonstrate that conservative conversions are fueled not only by fear, but by other factors as well.

    Uh, the fear of losing money is a valid fear.

    I urinate on crap sociological hoohaw. And, yes, I did eat a bunch of asparagus earlier this afternoon.

  12. Caledonian says

    Accused of being a troll by Caledonian. I think that meets my minimum daily requirement of irony.

    Trolls are traditionally defined as people who post short, inflammatory messages without context or conversational merit in order to provoke a massive response.

    I’ll gladly have any of my posts compared to the sterling example of wit and skilled debate you posted previously.

  13. Paguroidea says

    nitus – I agree that the electoral college system has significant problems. It definitely needs an overhaul. I’ve heard a lot of Americans grumble about it but I haven’t seen much action to change it.

  14. Great White Wonder says

    Caledonian, you just reminded me:

    A November 22, 2006 article in the Los Angeles Times reported that Yagman had said on November 21 that he was no longer representing Tabatabainejad. It was not clear from the article whether the lawsuit against the UCPD was still going forward

    Golly, I wonder why nobody wants to represent Mr. Library Crybaby?

  15. Caledonian says

    People also tend to become more conservative (in the broadest and least specific sense of the word) as they age. I hope the passage of time was eliminated as a factor when the establishment of doctors and lawyers was considered.

  16. says

    Inflammatory? I was describing a group to which I belong. Without context? I was replying to a post that posited a number of similar alleged traits of liberals or progressives.

    Damn. Wingnuts really don’t comprehend self-deprecation.

  17. Shigella says


    Chris was being FUNNY. Not inflammatory. Not “controversial.” Funny. Lighten the %&$# up.

  18. Jason says

    If you want to try to apply such labels as “left” and “right” to American politics, you’re first going to have to revise the electoral procedures to be proportional – so that x% votes means x% electoral votes. Of course, to do that you’d have to revise your constitution to lower the majority needed to form a government.

    We don’t have such a thing as a “majority needed to form a government.” That’s a feature of parliamentary democracies.

    We clearly do have a political “left” and “right.” They’re just mostly packaged inside two very big parties rather than a larger number of smaller ones. I think you’d have a hard time showing that alternative arrangements would work better.

  19. Colugo says

    I tend to be skeptical of such politics and personality studies. However, I wonder if there is a more interesting dimension than liberal vs conservative (or left vs right) – a formulation that involves problematic definitions, particularly in an international context. (For example, there were both “left” and “right” Peronistas.)

    The dimension that I have in mind is the style of having a given political identity – that is, super-earnest, knee-jerk, closed-minded, and Manichean vs. more light-hearted, questioning, open-minded, and tolerant of difference.

  20. George says

    That was fun! I haven’t read Psychology Today in years. It’s just as bad as I remember it!

  21. says

    Since there’s some skepticism in this comment section about the methods of the study, I figured I’d link it for you (Bora, by the way, linked to it more than a week ago). The article is here.

    Gosling has been doing work on personality and personal spaces (offices, bedrooms, etc.) for years, and come to some interesting conclusions. In a way, that may be the neatness stuff may be the most reliable aspect of the data.

    Also, one of the big problems with previous studies on personality and political ideology has been samples. More often than not, the samples are relatively small and drawn almost exclusively from university undergrads (often at schools like UC Berkeley). As a result, the samples are often very skewed, with few if any respondents being self-identified or scale-measured conservatives. This study attempted to avoid this problem by using several samples drawn from several sources, and a couple of the samples are pretty big and diverse.

    Also, as someone who’s written about terror management theory extensively (anytime you hear the phrase “mortality salience,” you’re in the realm of terror management theory), I have to say that the conclusions from studies on terror management and politics are equivocal. It is true that in two studies, people preferred Bush over Kerry when mortality salience was high, while they preferred Kerry over Bush when it was low, but there are likely reasons for this that have nothing to do with whether Bush is a conservative. Instead, it probably has to due with the fact that Bush was in office at the time. In order to tease those two explanations apart, though, studies will have to be done when a more liberal politician is in power and running against a conservative. Of course, mortality salience does make people more religious and causes them to prefer representational art, so… oh hell, I don’t know what that means.

  22. Caledonian says

    Colugo, I don’t think most of those concepts can be operationalized.

    For instance: how do you define ‘open-minded’, and how would you measure it?

  23. says

    For instance: how do you define ‘open-minded’, and how would you measure it?

    Caledonian, I’d recommend reading the article. There’s a long history of measuring such constructs in social psychology and individual differences psychology. If that article doesn’t satisfy your curiosity and skepticism, I’ll suggest some more references.

  24. Keanus says

    I agree completely with the generalization about ambiguity or uncertainty going hand in glove with conservative politics, at least in the US. It’s one reason conservatives have such a hard time accepting any aspect of science when it’s honestly expressed with the usual qualifiers. Conservatives, like our dear leader, see things in black and white and are sure that any expressed uncertainty hides some deep dark secret that something, e.g., evolution, isn’t true. It’s also one reason why they find fundamentalist Christianity so nice. It’s washes away all the ambiguity, shades of gray and uncertainty that society and the universe manifest. And a black and white view also eliminates the need for any thinking in making a decision. One path is right and one is wrong, so why debate the issue? Again referring to our dear leader, in his eyes no one should question his decisions because they all are guided by God and therefore right and not debatable. If you disgree, then you’re wrong and on the side of evil. With that mindset why should we ever expect him to heed the Constitution, the laws of the land, or the limits to power encoded in both.

  25. Stogoe says

    Crazy Old Ex-RentaCop GWW, now that’s a troll. I’d thought we’d all forgotten about how fucking nuts he got when the Turkey Bacon zapped a college student for not bowing and scraping enough, but it looks like he’s more than willing to remind us of how much of an asshole he is.

  26. Caledonian says

    I’ve already read the article, Chris, thanks, and I was asking Colugo how *he* would operationalize the concept.

    But while you’re talking, how about providing us with an example of a truth claim we can recognize as true without using the scientific method? Show us how those “alternate ways of knowing” work.

  27. Kagehi says

    Yeah, as Paguroidea said, the problem with the electorial college isn’t how it works, but how it *should* work. In theory, it is supposed to work like a sub-vote system. If 51% of people in X district vote on A, then A gets all the vote. If there are 6 districts, and B *wins* 4 of them, he gets **4** votes from that state. What really happens though in most cases, since no one fracking bothers to pass legislation to prevent it, is that if B has 4 electoral votes, he is *given* all 6 votes for the entire state. Thus, the system is completely broken. Also, the electoral college doesn’t actually have to abide by the popular vote in all cases, so even if B only got 2, they could still decide to give all 6 to B, instead of those 6 to A.

    Now, if the system did work, then it has a side effect. If District 1-4 are mostly empty and wide spaces, with no big centers of population, but 5 & 6 are huge cities, the interested of the 4 rural districts **should** counter the excessive influence of the two large cities. This is however a complete accident of the system, not an intended consequence, and its damn hard to prove if it does or doesn’t work, since half the damn states don’t play fair and give out the votes according to the actual poll data, but instead lump everything into just a win or loss for that state. And frankly, there has been more controversy over the blasted non-open, breakable, easilly virus infected, non-paper trail producing, voting machines, or the unbelievable stupid chad system, which they somehow failed until now to figure out caused fracking problems, than anything with the electoral college.

    The entire system is broken. The conspiracy theories arise from the realization that only an idiot can’t tell they are, the fact that in some cases no one could prove that a clever fraud bent them to make them produce the result they wanted, and the fact that the people trying to fix it seem to be just the kind of idiots that don’t understand why its broken in the first place…

  28. says

    Well, for one, try deduction :).

    But why would you care how someone who knows little if anything about personality psychology would operationalize a personality construct? And since it’s one that’s been studied extensively for decades, why wouldn’t you either go to the literature or, if you’ve gone to the literature, express what you see wrong with the current measures instead of just saying don’t think they can be operationalized when you now claim to know that they already have (just poorly)?

  29. says

    P.S., when I say read the article, I don’t mean the one PZ linked. I mean the journal article, in which the research was published.

  30. Colugo says

    Caledonian: I’m not sure how I would operationalize them. I’ll defer to those with more expertise in the field.

  31. Caledonian says

    Well, for one, try deduction :).

    Wrong. Scientific method applied to rule-based concept generation.

    Of course, you couldn’t answer this on your own blog – why would I expect an answer here?

  32. Caledonian says

    The reason I ask, Colugo, is that I see you associating traits that I don’t see any reason to think are necessarily or even usually linked.

    Super-earnestness, for example, is something I’ve found in all sorts of people, neoconservative and neoliberal alike. If anything, I’ve come across more earnest activists associated with traditionally-Lefty causes.

  33. rob says

    A long time ago, BCTV interviewed one of the caretakers at BC Place stadium in Vancouver about the habits of political conference goers. He said that the NDP (the left) always left the place spotless, with every piece of garbage in its proper place. The Socreds (the right), on the other hand left the place a shambles.

    Left-wingers may very well be slobs, but they also tend to be conscientious and respectful others, especially those on the so-called “lower rungs.”

  34. says

    Liberals are messier than conservatives. Their rooms have more clutter, more color. Conservatives’ rooms are better organized, more brightly lit, and more conventional. Liberals have more books and their books are on a greater variety of topics.
    In short, conservatives are more anal, i.e., tight-assed.
    Strange, all the crime shows I watch on the tube, the serial killers are all highly organized, too.
    P.S, today’s the 1st I ever heard of Chris Clarke. But then, I don’t get out much.

  35. Colugo says

    Caledonian: I would agree that these traits are not easily mapped onto a conventional political continuum. There are many ways of being “left” or “right,” many styles, many subgroups.

  36. says

    A couple of points: People tend to become more conservative as they become more prosperous, as in “If I succeeded, then the system must reward merit and must be doing something right.”

    MEN tend to become more conservative as they age. Women, in the past, have become more radical as they became more sure of their own competence and more pissed off by discrimination. With the current U.S. and Canadian generations, that might not apply.

  37. says

    Wow those stereotypes of conservative and liberal don’t seem right. Most conservatives I know fit the “stereotype” in the list you give of a liberal.

  38. says

    The relationship between conservatism and age is still a controversial one. We do know that it’s not linear (it’s not true that one gets more conservative as one ages). Instead, studies supporting a relationship show that conservatism levels remain pretty stable until people get into their 40s, at which point they tend to rise dramatically. Then they level off again. Overall, the variance in conservatism accounted for by age is very, very low (like less than 2%).

  39. sara says

    I wouldn’t say that all conservatives are very neat. My uncle (by marriage not blood) is quite conservative and untidy. He tends to fill his house with piles of U.S. News & World Report, Investor’s Business Daily, and stock-portfolio junk-mail. He believes firmly in the sacredness of abolishing the estate tax.

    But about the reading preferences, it’s likely that conservatives will have a smaller library of coffee-table books (gifts) and political books with red, white and blue cover designs.

    I don’t even need to look at the author of one of these books to know that it’s O’Reilly or Buchanan. The red, white, and blue is the giveaway.

  40. Herb West says

    Thanks for the link Chris.

    One of the other papers is Deliver Us From Evil: The Effects of Mortality Salience and Reminders of 9/11 on Support for President George W Bush. Landau MJ et al. Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2004 Sep;30(9):1136-50.

    Chris has a good point about the samples from which this data is drawn. The subjects of the experiment linking mortality salience to support for Bush were 97 Rutgers undergraduates (65 women, 32 men) who participated for extra credit in their psychology course. The subjects of the study linking subliminal stimulus of 9/11 to support for Bush consisted of 52 introductory psychology students
    at the University of Missouri-Columbia. It’s impossible to generalize from such samples to the entire electorate.

    These kinds of studies are sometimes cute and they can start discussion but nothing can be truly learned from them. Professional pollsters studying voter preference will poll hundreds to thousands of respondents selected to represent the demographics of the electorate. The data then gets crunched to exclude confounding factors, it’s computed as a rolling average, and the pollsters agonize over the demographic differences of landline vs cellphone users. Then the political campaigns that use polling data collect the work of multiple polling outfits rather than rely on a single group’s methodology. Even with the results of multiple polling outfits, campaigns often don’t care about the absolute numbers at a single point in time. Instead they want the temporal trends which neccessitates collecting data each month or each week. Social psych professors don’t have the money or manpower to perform a truly worthwhile, professional study so they mostly have to settle for small unrepresentative samples collected at a single timepoint. In other words: garbage in, garbage out.

  41. MorpheusPA says

    Great, I can’t even fit the stereotype when I want to.

    You can eat off my desk at home or at work. Not that I would. The same is true for most surfaces in the house, and the outside is kept neat and tended.

    I nearly did die about ten years ago when my gallbladder went necrotic on me (incompetent doctor + wonderful surgeon = survival in this case). Trust me, I’ve dwelt upon death. It made me more liberal and forced me to see the value of humans as humans.

    I was insecure as a child, much more secure as an adult, and am getting still more liberal as my income grows.

    Anecdotally, at least, this study fails miserably.


  42. barkdog says

    Kahegi: The selection of electors is subject to state law. Normally they are elected as party slates, which means the the biggest vote getter in the state (not needing over 50% of the statewide total) gets all the electors. Maine gives one elector for the winner in each of its two congressional districts with the other two (corresponding to the two senate seats) go according to the statewide total. Typically this works out to be a winner-take-all distribution. New Jersey also appears to have a system of splitting its electoral seats, but I don’t know the details. I am not aware of any other state that can split its electoral delegation. There have been rare cases of “rogue electors” not voting for their declared candidate, but between party vetting and state statutes this is not likely to happen again. Here in Ohio in 2004 we had the interesting possibilithy of a challenge to the eligibility of an elector, had the Democrats carried the state, because one of their nominees was a sitting congessman.
    I don’t think the electoral college is any more broken than it has ever been. Its most salient features remain the skew in favor of sparely populated, currently reliably Republican, western states and near impossibilty of a viable candidacy outside the two established parties. Even so, only a few elctions show a significant difference between reported popular vote and electoral college outcome. I do think though, that we would see people voting differently if they did not believe that they were throwing their votes away when they chose neither a Demopcrat nor a Republican. As far as conspiracies and fraud are concerned, current allegations are not more dramatic than well-documented past abuses. At a guess I would say that we probably are not getting any worse, but that is small conmfort. Presumably political scientists are gathering data for big books on the subject. I’m curious to see what they find.

  43. Flex says

    Kagehi wrote a number things about the electoral collage, and while I’m not a historian, it might help to expound a little more on why it was created the way it was.

    In the original conception, the electors were chosen by the legislatures of the states. There were many reasons for this, and at least part of the justification was the difficulty of polling every citizen.

    But one of the bigger reasons was the fear that a federal government which appealed directly to the people would be able to erode the power and sovereignty of the individual states. So the power to determine how each state choses the electors from that state was given to the legislatures of each state. State legislatures, at the time, varied widely in how they selected electors. Over time, to my knowledge, all states adopted constitutions which established electors to be chosen by the votes of the state population. (I say “to my knowledge” because I’ve looked at only a couple of state constitutions, but I’ve never heard of any state which hasn’t given the voters the right to chose electors. The 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th, and 24th amendments all put pressure on states to chose electors by popular vote over legislative fiat.)

    This is why there was no federal constitutional problem with the Florida legislature choosing the Flordia electors in 2000. The legislature created the Florida consitution, with it’s requirement for chosing electors by popular vote. However, since the Florida legislature has the power to amend the Florida constitution, they have the power to pass a bill to select the electors themselves. I’m surprised they used it though, voters typically hate to have any of the powers grudgingly granted to them by the legislatures taken away. It may well be that the fear generated by the September 11th, 2001 attacks overshadowed the dislike generated in Florida by the Florida legislature re-asserting it’s federal right to choose the electors themselves.

    Does the electoral system need overhaul? I think so, but the corrections can be done at the state level. There are three states that currently divide up the electors based on the percentage of the popular vote. I’m sorry to say that a similar initiative here in Michigan failed. But I think that, over time, we will see more and more states adopt this policy. This may not eliminate all the controversy surrounding the electoral college, but I’d like to see how it works before demolishing the entire structure.

    Even though neither political party at the federal level seems to want it to happen.

  44. BlueIndependent says

    Is there anything for people like me, who are an organized mess?

    Interesting, but not many will take this to heart. What I do think is correct vis a vis the difference between and L and a C, is the level of education. I think it has much more to do with that than confidence. There are plenty of examples of spoiled, overly confident people that were sheltered from certain things their parents considered “evil”, and now they can’t wait to tell the world how right their thinking is on just about everything. Oh wait, doesn’t that kind of describe Mr. Bush?

    A child who has a fortune available to it from birth is also likely to turn out particlarly conservative, because they always have power to wield over others without money. It’s why the estate tax is so smart a thing to have. Anyone ever see the HBO docmentary about the children of business moguls? Some of them thrive on the power trip that is their birthrite, because of daddy’s job. Witness what is Mr. Bush and his worldview.

    As for me, I would definitely consider myself more L than C. I have some conservative tendencies, but those tendencies moved more toward classical conservatism…the kind the republicans have forgotten. Nevertheless, I know which party is more correct on the issues, and will continue supporting them in future elections.

  45. says

    You forgot one. Liberals are much better at sex, and have probably had it with a lot more partners in a lot more numeric, gender and ethnicity permutations.

  46. bernarda says

    Maybe this song has already been posted in earlier threads, but it is appropriate here. “I’m a Liberal”.

    I didn’t find a song like “I’m a conservative”.

    For those who haven’t seen it, you should look up probably the best political satire program ever, “Yes, Minister”. Here is a clip that seems to show where Tony Snow got his instruction.

  47. Rey Fox says

    If more states were to adopt proportional electoral voting, it would have to start with the big states, and even then it would likely not come down to the smaller states. I live in one, and I don’t think the highly Republican legislature would try to change their system and potentially lose even 1 of their 4 measly votes.

    And at that point, one starts to wonder if the point behind such reforms is to make the electoral college more closely reflect the popular vote, then wouldn’t the best option be to simply scrap the electoral college altogether?

  48. Colugo says

    I wonder if certain personality types have counterparts on the other side of the left-right divide. Two such pairings that come to mind:

    – animal rights militants and anti-abortion militants

    – New Age devotees and charismatic evangelicals

  49. says

    Liberals are messier than conservatives. Their rooms have more clutter, more color.

    So I feel better now looking in my daughter’s room (looking only … no room to walk.)

  50. stogoe says

    Liberals also tend to know that Jack Bauer is a character on a fictional teleplay and not a distinguished speaker on foreign and domestic policy issues who gives lectures on the topic every week on Fox.

  51. chaos_engineer says

    The problem with proporational electoral voting is that it reduces the power of any state that switches to it.

    Suppose there are states using the two different systems, and the candidates are running 50-50%. They’re both going to be campaigning hard in the winner-takes-all state in hopes of getting the state’s pool of electoral votes. The other state isn’t much of a prize; the winner will only get a 1-2 vote advantage over the loser.

    So no state is going to be the first one to switch. You’d need to get a Constitutional amendment to force all the states to switch at once, and to do that you’d need to convince the people in 3/4 of the states that their votes wouldn’t count less under the new system. That’s never going to happen.

  52. James says

    Doesn’t Maine run a system where each electoral college vote is awarded independantly?

    And if it comes to a constitutional ammendment, I agree with Rey Fox, why not just say whoever gets more votes nationwide is president? After all its a national office, so there is no reason to apply local fudging to the result.

    Admittedly this has the disadvantage of being simple, straightforward and intuitive, but you can probably sell it anyway.

  53. llewelly says

    Both Maine and Nebraska choose two electors based on statewide results, and the remaining electors proportionally.

  54. George says

    Liberals have a much better sense of humor than conservatives.

    Case in point, Dennis Miller:

    Josh, from Ramadi, Iraq writes:
    Dennis, I am currently deployed to Iraq for the second time in less than 6 months. My question is, why does this country smell so bad and why have we ignored it for so long? Why are we so worried about “electricity” and “potable water” for the people when we should be concerned with shipping some Glade Plug-Ins to these poor bastards? I mean seriously, I can’t be the only one who has noticed this. Hello?

    Dennis Miller:
    I feel your pain, Josh. OK, so maybe I don’t. You’d never know it to look at me, but I just spent most of today luxuriating in a $200/hr Los Angeles spa. They have these little Korean honeys who come in and scrub you like you’re the kitchen floor in a Stuttgart bed and breakfast! Anyway though, yeah, I’m sure that joint is a real shithole. But at least it’s now a FREE® shithole, right? I’d come over and help you if I weren’t so busy cashing checks and riding around on Air Force One. Besides, if I actually went to a war, how could I sit back in air-conditioned safety and shake my huge, fluffy pro-war pompoms like Paula Abdul after a crystal meth suppository?

    But tell you what, if you make it home in one piece, come on my show and tell my 15,000 viewers all about it. Of course, if you pull a John Kerry and cry about your buddies getting killed in a totally pointless clusterfuck, I’ll have no choice but to sarcastically mock you as the wussy you are. [Laughs.]

    Not funny.

  55. says

    Liberals also tend to know that Jack Bauer is a character on a fictional teleplay and not a distinguished speaker on foreign and domestic policy issues who gives lectures on the topic every week on Fox.
    I watched the season premiere recently (not really a big fan), & I couldn’t help but notice that every time they showed a news show (on the show), it was always Fox. Even in the CTU HQ.
    Vastly amusing.

  56. says

    I love it when people try to stereotype others. I am a VietNam combat veteran, pistol collecting Texan who has ridden Harleys for decades and wear a white beard to my belt.
    All vet, biker, gun nut Texans with beards to their belts are republican conservatives, right? Wrong!
    I am a fiction book and poetry writing, bird blogging, yellow dog Democrat. So much for rubber stamping people.

  57. Greg Byshenk says

    Somewhat off topic, but I submit that the discussions regarding the electoral
    college miss the point. The electoral college system may have its problems, such
    as “winner take all” states, but mostly it works precisely as intended. Indeed,
    if one could truly say that some candidate earned the support of the majority of
    the voters in some given district, then it is at least not a crazy idea to say
    that the district gives its support to that candidate, particularly when one is
    selecting a single person as representative. This is true in the case of selecting
    a US Rep from a particular district, and is at least arguably so in selecting the
    electors for the electoral college in the Presidential race.

    The real problem with elections in the US is that the assumption above cannot
    be shown to be true, and indeed can often be demonstrated to be false. That is,
    in many cases it is not at all clearly true that the “winner” earned the support
    of the majority of the voters in that district, and in many cases it is
    demonstrably false.

    This is corrosive in multiple ways. Most obviously, a “first past the post”
    system means that the “winner” of a given election may not even have the support
    of a simple majority of the voters. But it also effects the votes themselves.
    In such a system, it is true that “a vote for the Greens is actually a
    vote for the Republicans” (for example). Still further, it effects those
    contesting elections. In such a system, a candidate is not out to win
    the support of the majority of voters, but rather to win more than “the other”

    There is mention above of proportional representation, but that is unworkable
    in the US without a major revision to the Constitution. What would be workable,
    though, is a move to “transfer” or “instant runoff” voting, which would address
    some of the most serious problems.