The results of a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, Florida State University, and Pennsylvania State University are sending shockwaves across the nation.
Four researchers sought to discover whether political ideology could predict involvement in criminal activity, and what they found could upend our entire political and criminal justice systems.
Political ideology represents an imperfect yet important indicator of a host of personality traits and cognitive preferences. These preferences, in turn, seemingly propel liberals and conservatives towards divergent life-course experiences. Criminal behavior represents one particular domain of conduct where differences rooted in political ideology may exist. Using a national dataset, we test whether and to what extent political ideology is predictive of self-reported criminal behavior. Our results show that self-identiﬁed political ideology is monotonically related to criminal conduct cross-sectionally and prospectively and that liberals self-report more criminal conduct than do conservatives. We discuss potential causal mechanisms relating political ideology to individual conduct. [Emphasis added]
The data were gathered through “self-reporting” and cannot therefore be trusted as definitive. They are nevertheless instructive in explaining important cultural differences between conservatives and liberals.
This chart from the report is both compelling and astonishing. In it, the Wave 3 bars represent data collected between 2001 and 2002 when respondents were between the ages of 18 and 28. Wave 4 data were collected during 2008 and 2009. Quite obviously, “very liberal” respondents in both groups were far more likely to be involved in criminal activity than those who view themselves as “very conservative.”
The researchers do caution against assuming a “causal relationship between liberal political ideology and criminal conduct,” but they also observe that there is corresponding research that shows that conservatives are more closely associated with reduced criminal behavior.
There is apparent scholarly agreement that conservatives more strongly value social order, respect for authority, and social conformity and that conservatives are more religious, more conscientious, and demonstrate higher levels of self-control. These traits and values likely inﬂuence lifestyle choices in ways that better insulate conservatives against criminal behavior. Moreover, conservative narratives about “free will, personal responsibility, and morality may gel into cognitive scripts that condemn criminal conduct as immoral and worthy of social sanctions.
The researchers also point out that academics and philosophers are realizing increasingly that ideology may play a larger role in our daily life than most people realize. In fact, political leanings may indicate what a person believes, thinks, and does in more places than just the voting booth.
Overall, our study joins a growing stream of empirical assessments that document differences between liberals and conservatives. Collectively, these studies show the potent yet often unexamined role political ideology plays in everyday life. Political ideology represents more than disparate views on the proper role of government and adherence to reﬁned political theories. Ideology reﬂects an assortment of correlated beliefs and narratives about behavior that are internalized by individuals. These narratives likely impact individual choices, making some choices more likely and other choices less likely. Criminal behavior may also reﬂect choices rooted in ideological narratives — narratives that promote or reduce the occurrence of crime.
Cross-posted at Constitution.com