The University of Virginia, The University of California (Irvine), and the University of Southern California are conducting a survey project that examines, among other things, the correlation between political orientation (Liberal/Conservative) and a group of 5 moral axes: harm/care, farness/reciprocity, in-group/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity.
I would not be surprised if there are correlations, even strong correlations, between the survey results and who is and is not a birther. If readers here, especially those who consider Obama “too foreign” to be President would post their results here in comments, it could help decide that question.
I took the first survey (Moral Foundations Questionnaire) myself, and found that I aligned more with Conservatives on the harm and authority scales and with liberals on purity. I split the difference on loyalty but ranked higher than both on questions of fairness (where liberals rank higher than Conservatives)1.
There is a quotation falsely attributed to Winston Churchill that I find a useful jumping-off point for the rest of the article:
If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.
The university study tests the hypothesis that political orientation is biologically based. In my own case, I was raised a Southern Baptist in a rural Alabama town. I even wrote a fan letter to George Wallace in high school about states rights. Nevertheless, I was always about fairness. When I went to college and had the opportunity to get in touch with more liberal views, I found that they fitted me well. I was most decidedly a liberal at age 25 and a card-carrying member of the ACLU.
Now that I am older (61) I think that life experience plays a stronger role than it used to. I can see the pragmatic value of loyalty and how the proper use of authority can prevent harm. What passes for conservative thought in this country seems more an anti-intellectual backlash than anything else, and I’m no kin to that. My experience may explain why I’m more inclined to support centrist Democrats (like Obama and Clinton) but am still moved by more liberal politicians.
1My scores were: 3.0, 4.2, 2.5, 2.8 and 1.7.