With the government shutdown entering its second week and a widespread consensus that blames Republicans for putting the country to its knees, a new study sheds light on the thought process that led many Republicans, especially those who are ultra-conservative, to become so stubborn that they would have rather furloughed 800,000 federal employees than allowed a spending bill with funds delegated to Obamacare to pass. But these thought processes aren’t unique to Republicans, but instead, apply to anyone who vehemently believes their opinions to be the truth, and nothing but the truth.
Congressional Republicans, such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, passionately fought to cut out Obamacare funding from the spending bill in the weeks leading up to the imminent shutdown. He argued that he was defending the beliefs of the American people. He wasn’t the only one to argue that point. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told Fox News Channel that this is “about the happiest she’s seen Republicans in a long time because we’ve seen we’re starting to win this dialogue on a national level.” Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) told Newsmax regarding Democrats, “They need to look in the mirror, because they’re the ones to blame. They’re the ones that shut the government down.”
This kind of dogmatic view that Republicans have been in the right all along is known as “belief superiority,” researchers of the study said, and it’s not unique to only Republicans. The Duke University researchers wanted to see if extreme views of both liberals and conservatives showed signs of belief superiority, as opposed to more moderate viewpoints.
To do this, they had 527 adults between 18 and 67 years old complete a nine question survey on hot button issues. They were also asked to discuss how superior they felt about their opinions. The questionnaire's topics included:
· health care (the degree to which health care should be covered by the government or by private insurance)
· illegal immigration (the degree to which people who enter the country illegally should be dealt with more strictly or more leniently than at present);
· abortion (the conditions under which abortion should be legal)
· the degree to which national and state laws should be based on religious beliefs.
As expected, participants whose responses were further toward the extremes of each topic also felt that their opinions were the end all be all of the subject. “These findings help explain why politicians with more extreme views can’t reach across the aisle,” Kaitlin Toner, lead author of the study, said in a statement. “As more extreme candidates get elected to Congress, compromise becomes more difficult and deadlocks increase because those with more extreme views are more certain they are right.”
But the researchers said that having confidence in one extreme is "not limited to politics. Anytime people hold an extreme position, even on a trivial issue, they seem to think their views are better than anyone else's," Dr. Mark Leary, who supervised the research, said in the statement.
So it makes sense that our government has shutdown. Leading up to the shutdown, House Republicans refused to omit language that they inserted into the appropriations bill to defund Obamacare. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats refused to pass the bill with that language in it. Both sides are still adamant about their positions, however, two possible solutions have emerged:
Democrats began passing around a “discharge petition” on Friday that would force a vote on the spending bill and reopen the government if its gets the majority of House signatures. This would go against House Speaker John Boehner’s claim that the House doesn’t have enough votes for the Democratically-proposed “clean bill,” which wouldn’t contain any alterations to Obamacare, CBS reported.
Republicans, on the other hand, are looking to force negotiations when Congress convenes to negotiate a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, a bill that must be passed in order for the country to avoid defaulting on its loans. Yet, President Obama refuses to negotiate on the debt ceiling because he believes it would set a precedent that a looming default could be used as leverage in budget negotiations, according to USA Today.
“The hard right says, ‘see, by holding a gun to their heads, we got something that we wanted. We’ll up the ante this time,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told CBS. “…You can’t call for that legislative blackmail or it will get worse and worse and worse.”
Source: Toner K, Leary M, Asher M, et al. Feeling Superior Is a Bipartisan Issue: Extremity (Not Direction) of Political Views Predicts Perceived Belief Superiority. Psychological Science. 2013.