, Volume 22, Issue 2-3, pp 181-205

Political Orientation and Ideological Inconsistencies: (Dis)comfort with Value Tradeoffs

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Abstract

People are often inconsistent in the way they apply their values to their political beliefs (e.g., citing the value of life in opposing capital punishment while simultaneously supporting abortion rights). How do people confront such inconsistencies? Liberals were more likely to say that issues that could draw on several competing values were complex issues that required value tradeoffs, whereas conservatives were more likely to deny the comparability of the issues. We argue that this difference is rooted in the distinct ways that liberals and conservatives represent political issues. Additional evidence suggested that conservatives’ higher need for closure leads them to represent issues in terms of salient, accessible values. Although this may lead conservatives’ attitudes to be more situationally malleable under some circumstances, such shifts do serve to protect an absolutist approach to one’s moral values and help conservatives to deny the comparability of potentially inconsistent positions.