News / USA

    Liberals and Conservatives Can Agree

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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora