News / USA

Liberals and Conservatives Can Agree

U.S. Presidential Debates
U.S. Presidential Debates

Multimedia

Audio
  • Listen to De Capua report on liberals and conservatives

Joe DeCapua
Despite the bitter debate and sharp divisions of the just completed U.S. elections, a Canadian study says it is possible for liberals and conservatives to agree, especially on issues of fairness and caring for humanity.


University of Winnipeg Assistant Professor Jeremy Frimer says liberals and conservatives – despite what they say about each other – “share a surprising level of common moral ground.”

Frimer did not intend to study the often opposing groups. That happened only after he started asking himself questions about his research on what makes moral leaders.

“In the process of researching them, I was encountering reviewers, and other people are asking me, well, by moral leader do you mean a liberal moral leader? Do you mean a conservative moral leader? Get more clear on this. And I came to realize that wasn’t sure what I was researching at this point. Was I researching a kind of moral leader that conforms to my ideology, or is this something that maybe people of a different ideology and maybe the world over might share?”

About 400 people of different political persuasions were given a list of influential people. They were then asked to rate them as to whether they were moral and caring

“So we started with Time Magazine’s list of the most influential people of the 20th Century, which could good or bad. I mean there’s Hitler and there’s Gandhi in there. They could be left wing or right wing. You got Reagan and you’ve got Harvey Milk in there. So we thought that this was a good place to start where the emphasis was not on division. It was on influence. And so we felt like we had a good starting point then; and that would be a more representative way of testing people’s morals, rather than necessarily just starting with controversial issues where they highlight, they accentuate and emphasize disagreement,” said Frimer.

Ronald Reagan, a conservative Republican, served two terms as U.S. president between 1981 and 1989. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office. The activist was shot dead by a co-worker in San Francisco in 1978.

The current political system in the U.S. may drive a wedge between liberals and conservatives.

Frimer said, “The politics of debate is about the differences. And so our attention is drawn constantly to how these people differ in how they think about things. It’s good to debate matters that are controversial, but at the same time, what we don’t debate are uncontroversial matters that we can all agree on. So matters about whether it’s ok to take care of you’re children, and whether society should be fair and just. Those sorts of things just don’t come up in the debates because we automatically agree with them. Those are the sorts of things that just don’t make the news.”

He said moral foundations of care and fairness are overwhelmingly the strongest predictors of what makes a moral person. Foundations of disagreement are much smaller contributors to making moral judgments.

“With people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa, liberals and conservatives both saw them as extremely moral and saw them as extremely caring,” he said.

He added that “progress on divisive social issues is more likely when the discussion is framed as a question of fairness and care for humanity.” That’s where common ground can be found.

“The suggestion coming from this research is that if we focus on issues of care and fairness, we’re more likely to be able to make moral progress in terms of moving forward, because that’s where we agree. Those are things that both liberals and conservatives agree about. When we focus on issues that come down to authority and hierarchy in society, sexual matters and so on, we should expect disagreement. Those are going to be much harder issues to make progress on,” he said.

The study was conducted at the University of British Columbia, where Frimer was a postdoctoral researcher. He later became an assistant professor in Winnipeg.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid