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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Does Religion Affect Our Values—or Politics?

Do political parties have different values, and does religion affect these values? These are the questions that Kennon Sheldon, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, set out to answer with a recent study that compared the "extrinsic" and "intrinsic" values of Democrats and Republicans. Extrinsic values include things like wealth, status, and appearance, while intrinsic values are things like growth, intimacy, and helping. Past research has shown that extrinsic values undermine personal satisfaction, as well as cooperation and congeniality among a group.
Only nonreligious Republicans, the study showed, favor the extrinsic value of financial success over the intrinsic value of helping others in need. Religious Republicans, religious Democrats, and nonreligion Democrats do not differ on the value of helping those in need, but religious Republicans seem to value financial success more than Democrats do. “The one thing that struck me the most was that the value differences were rather small—really, people were more alike than different, in that almost everybody favored intrinsic values more than extrinsic values,” says Sheldon. “It was just a small relative difference between the two parties.”
The study, “Comparing the Values of Republicans and Democrats,” will be published in the March issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. —Michele Calandra