When it comes to estimating the values of the British public, liberals tend to get it wrong. Our new research reveals why this may undermine liberals’ motivation to become politically involved.
The story goes that liberals have a soft, idealistic view of human nature, while conservatives have the more hardened view that people are essentially competitive or out for their own gain. Is this true? Researchers in the past, looking at ideology, trust and social responsibility, conclude that the ‘misanthropic conservative’ is basically a myth. Our research on values goes a step further, suggesting that, if anything, it’s liberals who are most likely to underestimate their peers.
People’s perceptions of other people’s values
In a recent blog, we shared some results of a survey conducted by Ipsos-MORI on behalf of Common Cause Foundation. We asked UK citizens what they value, and what they think other people in Britain value. We found that most people (77.6%) have an unnecessarily pessimistic view about the values of a typical Brit. Most people under-estimate the importance of self-transcendence values to their peers (that is, values that are generally concerned with the wellbeing of others), and overestimate the importance of self-enhancement values (that is, values focused on the pursuit of personal status and success).
This is unfortunate, because besides going through life with a sadly pessimistic view of other people, this misconception may also be linked to a person’s motivation to become involved in various forms of civic engagement. So, for example, we found that a person’s perception of other people’s values is a significant predictor of his or her motivation to vote.