After living in different parts of the U.S., and in Europe for a few years as well, here are some broad generalizations I would make for why folks become liberal instead of conservative:
1. Emotional intelligence. The higher someone’s empathy, compassion, and overall EQ, the more they seem to gravitate towards progressive ideas.
2. Education. The more educated people are, the more likely they are to lean liberal.
3. Urban living. Urban living exposes people to different cultures, lifestyles, belief systems, and political leanings — and demands a higher level of tolerance and “getting along” with such diverse folks. Urban living also amplifies the impact of each person’s behavior on everyone around them. These things make a progressive mindset a much easier, more productive, and more prosocial orientation than being conservative in urban environments.
4. Love of science. It’s hard to be conservative if you’re passionate about scientific inquiry that constantly revises previous assumptions and beliefs.
5. Distaste for greed and selfishness. Liberals tend to be motivated by concern and caring for everyone in society, rather than by accumulating wealth or power for themselves.
6. Identifying as a world citizen, rather than only as an American. This doesn’t mean anti-American, it just means seeing the whole planet as home, and feeling a sense of duty to the Earth and all its inhabitants — and then wanting to act (and vote, and consume, etc.) accordingly.
7. A sense that liberty is more about removing barriers to shared opportunity for everyone, rather than enforcing any individualistic “rights.”
8. Love of Nature. It’s hard to be a conservative nowadays if you believe humans should respect and protect the natural world, rather than exploit it, destroy it, and use it up.
9. Authentic spirituality. I don’t really believe you can be an authentic Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu and vote conservative at this point in time. Those faith traditions — and many others around the world — are pretty incompatible with current conservative attitudes, policies, and ideals.
10. A desire for “good government” (that is, one that governs for the public good) rather than fortifying crony capitalist plutocracy.
11. Favoring evidence-based goals and policies. Progressives tend to rely on proven solutions, rather than ideologically pure but untested experiments (or worse, on ideas that have demonstrated failure over and over again).
12.Critical thinking. The logical fallacies, conspiracy theories, and denial of reality that has been running amok in conservative groupthink of late is just too distasteful and alienating for anyone who has learned to reflect carefully and critically.
13. An inquisitive nature, with openness to new ideas.
14. A propensity for love-centric reasoning, rather than fear-centric reasoning.
15. Having wisdom and discernment.
There are, of course, folks who are liberal or conservative because their parents were one way or the other, or all of their peers growing up were liberal or conservative, but that’s sort of a default conformist or reactionary reflex, rather than a motivating rationale….
My 2 cents.
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