“Conservative politicians can credibly commit that they will not compromise while liberal politicians cannot. As a result, liberals compromise more than conservatives.”

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution shares some interesting Gallup data on conservative and liberal Americans’ attitudes toward compromise.  Liberals are open to compromise in order to accomplish things; conservatives are more prone to stick to their guns even at the cost of getting things done.

I’ve talked before on my blog about the power of harsh public rhetoric; the ideological resolve of American conservatives likely gives their leaders a significant advantage in negotiation (particularly when facing counterparts whose constituents are amenable to compromise).

What I’m curious about in this is what drives the pragmatism of American liberals and the resoluteness of American conservatives.  One explanation would be that it is a product of the specific political situation and structure in the United States:  The configuration of coalitions, the degree of risk associated with cooperation, the appeal of the status quo, and so on.  Paul Quirk has a very nice APSR article that describes this perspective on policy conflict (gated, I’m afraid.)

Another is that it simply reflects underlying and enduring dispositional differences.  American liberals and conservatives differ in terms of their social dominance orientation, as well as a host of other personality variables (including openness to experience and tolerance of uncertainty).

I suspect that the solution to this social problem (or whether it is indeed solvable) will differ depending on what mechanism (structural or dispositional) underlies the attitudinal difference in the Gallup data.

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