The Behavioral Immune System Shapes Partisan Preferences in Modern Democracies: Disgust Sensitivity Predicts Voting for Socially Conservative Parties

Abstract

While there is growing interest in the relationship between pathogen‐avoidance motivations and partisanship, the extant findings remain contradictory and suffer from a number of methodological limitations related to measurement and internal and external validity. We address these limitations and marshal the most complete test to date of the relationship between the behavioral immune system and partisanship, as indexed by which party people identify with and vote for. Using a unique research design, including multiple well‐powered, nationally representative samples from the United States and Denmark collected in election and nonelection contexts, our study is the first to establish in cross‐national data a consistent, substantial, and replicable connection between deep‐seated pathogen‐avoidance motivations and socially conservative party preferences across multiple validated measures of individual differences in disgust sensitivity and using large representative samples. We explore the relative contribution of the pathogen‐avoidance model and sexual strategies for accounting for this relationship.

Aarøe, Lene, Michael Bang Petersen, and Kevin Arceneaux. 2020. The Behavioral Immune System Shapes Partisan Preferences in Modern Democracies: Disgust Sensitivity Predicts Voting for Socially Conservative Parties. Political Psychology, 41 (6): 1073-1091.

Kevin (Vin) Arceneaux
Kevin (Vin) Arceneaux
Professor of Political Science

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