Research Suggests that Conservatives Are More Likely to Be Knuckle-Dragging Neanderthals, sort of…

Daniel J. Mitchell
Posted: Oct 31, 2012 12:01 AM

I’ve written before about the underlying differences between conservatives, libertarians, and statists, and I’ve even suggested that libertarians and social conservatives should be natural allies on many issues.

“Redistribute this, punk”

“I want higher taxes”

Little did I realize, though, that biceps may be a determinant of political philosophy. To be sure, some on the left have long said that conservatives are primitive and reactionary brutes, sort of modern-day neanderthals.

Well, it turns out that there’s some scientific evidence for this idea, at least among males. But before leftists get too excited about this new research, they should be forewarned that it also implies that folks on the left are more likely to be sunken-chested, spindly-armed weaklings.

In the grand scheme of things, I’d rather be Arnold Schwarzenegger than Woody Allen. But I’ll just assume that libertarians are a perfect fusion of strength and sensitivity.

Anyhow, enough of my speculation. For those who want to know what the research really says, here are some excerpts from an article in The Economist.

Dr Petersen and Dr Sznycer were investigating the idea that a person’s political opinions might be aligned with his physical characteristics. The opinion in question was whether resources should be redistributed from the rich to the poor. The physical characteristic was strength. …For men, …opinion did depend on strength. The two researchers came to this conclusion after looking at 486 Americans, 223 Argentinians and 793 Danes. They collected data on their volunteers’ strength by measuring the circumference of the flexed biceps of an individual’s dominant arm. (Previous work has shown that this is an accurate proxy for strength.) They then measured people’s status with questionnaires about their economic situation. And they determined a person’s support for redistribution by asking the degree to which he or she agreed with statements like: “The wealthy should give more money to those who are worse off”; and “It is not fair that people have to pay taxes to fund welfare programmes.” They also asked about participants’ political ideologies. Dr Petersen and Dr Sznycer found that, regardless of country of origin or apparent ideology, strong men argued for their self interest: the poor for redistribution, the rich against it. No surprises there. Weaklings, however, were far less inclined to make the case that self-interest suggested they would.

On a semi-serious note, the research doesn’t say that strong men are against redistribution. It simply says they openly favor whatever happens to be in their self-interest. So a strong but poor male would favor a big welfare state, while a rich and strong male will prefer liberty.

For weaklings and women, from what I can tell, there is no correlation between strength (or lack thereof) and political philosophy.

P.S. Since we started this post by referencing a serious analysis of the difference among conservatives, libertarians, and liberals, let’s close with a humorous look at the difference between conservatives, liberals, and Texans. In the same vein, here’s a joke about the difference between Californians and folks from other states.