Thursday, May 16, 2013

Study: Male upper body strength strongly correlates with political views

The (UK) Daily Mail reports on a new psychological study:
Men who are physically strong are more likely to take a right wing political stance, while weaker men are inclined to support the welfare state, according to a new study.
The conclusion that liberals are wimps is appealing but the Daily Mail got it wrong: the actual study results are more complex than that.  I found the original research paper on SSRN (both abstract and full text available).  The abstract, in full, states:
Over human evolutionary history, upper body strength has been a major component of fighting ability. Evolutionary models of animal conflict predict that actors with greater fighting ability will more actively attempt to acquire or defend resources than less formidable contestants. Here, we apply these models to political decision-making about redistribution of income and wealth among modern humans. In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark and the U.S., men with greater upper body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position: Among men of lower socioeconomic status (SES), strength predicted increased support for redistribution; among men of higher SES, strength predicted increased opposition to redistribution. As personal upper body strength is irrelevant to payoffs from economic policies in modern mass democracies, the continuing role of strength suggests that modern political decision-making is shaped by an evolved psychology designed for small-scale groups.[Emph. added]
In other words, the study concludes that (a) strong upper-class men oppose redistribution but (b) strong lower-class men support it (think of the stereotypical Marxist/union thugs).

The study, a joint project of three universities, reached the same conclusion in each of three countries studied: Argentina, the US, and Denmark.  At the risk of getting technical, here is their figure 1 which has the correlation coefficient data supporting their conclusions (you will need to click on the figure for a larger, more legible view):


Put another way, this study says that liberals are a coalition of rich wimpy men and strong poor men.  By contrast, conservatives are a coalition of rich strong men and poor weak men.

The study found that women are different from men: a woman's upper body strength did not affect her politics.

Partisans would like to think that it is the smart people who support their side.  In reality, though, that doesn't work: both sides have their share of both smart people and dumb people.

By contrast, this study, with its exceptionally strong correlation coefficients, seems to be on to something more substantial.  I suspect, though, that future studies will find that a person's politics are more determined by some aspect of a person's anxiety levels for which physical strength is just one contributing factor. 


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8 comments:

megapotamus said...

So anything less than Nannyism is rightwing? Jeez.

Andy Freeman said...

> So anything less than Nannyism is rightwing? Jeez.

Leftists/progressives tell us that anything less than full agreement with them is "radical rightwing".

Or are you objecting to calling leftists/progressives "Nannies"? Real nannies don't try to throw their political opponents in jail or psych wards, but we're talking about political nannies/leftists/progressives, and they do.

SH said...

"I suspect, though, that future studies will find that a person's politics are more determined by some aspect of a person's anxiety levels for which physical strength is just one contributing factor."

Yep. Alienation from society (which, IMO, manifests in collectivist politics) hand in hand alienation from one's body (which, in it's more active side, tends to produce the very thin... while the passive version is chubby... but also weak).. Schizoid all around...

Weisshaupt said...

" Real nannies don't try to throw their political opponents in jail"

Real Nannies are in charge of Children. Progressive Nannies wish to be in charge of Free Adults.

Anonymous said...

seems to explain ethnic stereotypes, body type, and politics ( black, jewish, etc).

Anonymous said...

"In studies conducted in Argentina, Denmark and the U.S., men with greater upper body strength more strongly endorsed the self-beneficial position"

The abstract is compromised by the bias of its writer. I would contend redistribution is the self-beneficial position as it involves actively taking away the fruits of other people's labor. The extreme of redistribution is slavery. Would the writer consider opposition to slavery to be a self-beneficial position?

Flying Tiger said...

Alpha males are real.

In other news, water is wet and the sky is blue.

Public Opinion said...

I would argue redistribution is the self-beneficial place as it involves dynamically taking away the fruits of other people's labor.Nice post. It will be helpful for various people.

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