Does religion make a difference in politics?

October 27, 2008

COLUMBIA, Mo. - From Barack Obama's controversial pastor to Sarah Palin's "secret religion", religious values have continued to play a dominant role in the presidential election since John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic elected to president in 1960. Hoping to answer the question of which political party has a monopoly on the "best" values and how religion affects these values, Kennon Sheldon, a University of Missouri professor, compared the "extrinsic" values (financial success, status, appearance) with "intrinsic" values (growth, intimacy, helping) of self-declared Democrats and Republicans in four different samples.

Past research shows that extrinsic values undermine both personal well-being (mood and satisfaction) and collective well-being (cooperation and congeniality). Sheldon, a professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Science, found Republicans to be consistently higher on the extrinsic value of financial success and lower on the intrinsic value of helping others in need. Closer examination showed that only non-religious Republicans (presumably economic conservatives) differed from Democrats on the value of helping those in need. However, even religious Republicans exceeded Democrats in valuing financial success. Religious and non-religious Democrats did not differ in their values.

Sheldon also wondered whether the primarily economic-oriented values of Republican politicians can allow them to work for large changes that seem needed, such as shifting to an alternative and sustainable energy economy in the face of increasing climate change, or shifting toward greater inclusiveness in the face of increasing racial diversity. These challenges may require more intrinsic values, in which connection and cooperation are emphasized rather than wealth and consumption.

"The one thing that struck me the most was that the value differences were rather small - really, people were more alike than different, in that almost everybody favored intrinsic values more than extrinsic values," Sheldon said. "It was just a small relative difference between the two parties. Still, these data suggest that economic conservatives have been 'drafting' on the values of religious conservatives, using conservative Christians' willingness to care for less fortunate others as a cover for their own willingness to exploit the situation."
Sheldon's article titled "Comparing the Values of Republicans and Democrats" will appear in the March 2008 Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Cooperation Articles from Brightsurf:

Betrayal or cooperation? Analytical investigation of behavior drivers
At the macroscopic level, there are numerous examples of people cooperating to form groupings.

How does cooperation evolve?
In nature, organisms often support each other in order to gain an advantage.

Simulating cooperation in local communities
In new research published in EPJ B, a new simulation-based approach is introduced which could help to reduce the proportion of people who misuse welfare payoffs, through a cost-effective system which rewards individuals who use them responsibly.

Cooperation can be contagious particularly when people see the benefit for others
Seeing someone do something good for someone else motivates witnesses to perform their own helpful acts, an insight that could help drive cooperative behavior in communities navigating through the health crisis.

Cultivating cooperation through kinship
Extensive cooperation among biologically unrelated individuals is uniquely human. It would be surprising if this uniqueness were not related to other uniquely human characteristics, yet current theories of human cooperation tend to ignore the human aspects of human behavior.

As farming developed, so did cooperation -- and violence
The growth of agriculture led to unprecedented cooperation in human societies, a team of researchers, has found, but it also led to a spike in violence, an insight that offers lessons for the present.

Cooperation after eye contact: Gender matters
Researchers from the UB published an article in the journal Scientific Reports which analyses, through the prisoner's dilemma game, the willingness of people to cooperate when in pairs.

How employees' rankings disrupt cooperation and how managers can restore it
First prize is a Cadillac Eldorado, second prize a set of steak knives, third prize you're firedĀ».

Sex for cooperation
To understand the origins of human sociality studying the social dynamics of our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, is important.

Migration can promote or inhibit cooperation between individuals
A new mathematical analysis suggests that migration can generate patterns in the spatial distribution of individuals that promote cooperation and allow populations to thrive, in spite of the threat of exploitation.

Read More: Cooperation News and Cooperation Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to