The results of a new study examining potential links between psychopathic traits and political affiliation builds on previous research showing that people with conservative political views have slightly more psychopathic traits than their more liberal counterparts.
“Psychopathic traits with their associated empathy deficits appear relevant to the discussion of political attitudes and political candidates,” wrote the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
For their study, the researchers surveyed 304 American adults using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The participants completed measures of psychopathy, empathy, political beliefs, and political affiliation.
The study was based on the triarchic conceptualization of psychopathy, which breaks psychopathy down into three facets: boldness, meanness, and disinhibition.
Psychopathic boldness and meanness tended to be higher in Republicans than Democrats, according to the researchers’ findings, though disinhibition did not appear linked to political views.
In other words, Republicans were more likely to agree with statements such as “I don’t mind if someone I dislike gets hurt”, “I taunt people just to stir things up,” “I can get over things that would traumatize others,” and “I never worry about making a fool of myself with others.”
But whether people agreed with statements like “I get in trouble for not considering the consequences of my actions” was unrelated to their politics.
Further, researchers found that boldness tracked with conservative views on the economy, while meanness tracked with social views.
Boldness was linked to opposition to government spending, immigration, and gay rights. Meanness was associated with opposition to universal healthcare, marijuana legalization, equal pay for women, and affirmative action.
PsyPost noted, however, that the study includes some limitations — it used just one measure of psychopathy, and the differences between Republican and Democratic affiliation were statistically significant but relatively small nonetheless.