I guess I should not have been surprised by this one, but the clarity of it is pretty breathtaking. A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at attitudes about energy efficiency in liberals and conservatives.
First, they gave people a fixed amount of money and gave them a choice of buying an old-school (low efficiency) incandescent light bulb or a new (high efficiency) compact florescent light bulb (CFL). When the bulbs cost the same, and even when the CFL cost more than the incandescent, both conservatives and liberals were equally likely to buy the efficient bulb.
Now here’s the interesting part. When they took the same choice, but this time put a message on the CFL saying “Protect the Environment”, there was a significant drop-off in conservatives picking the CFL.
That’s right. The same choice, the same price, but labeling something as helping to protect the environment made conservatives (and even the more conservative moderates) less likely to buy it. So either conservatives love to destroy the environment, or (more likely) they are automatically against anything that liberals are for. You know, “them damn liberals are always trying to protect the environment, and I hate liberals”. Therefore, they will not buy the energy efficient bulb (even though it would save them money) because it might allow them to piss off some imaginary liberal!
Isn’t it ironic that once upon a time, the conservative movement stood for conserving things? Now I’m not sure if it stand for anything, but instead is just about being against things (in particular, anything that liberals like).
UPDATE: This definitely applies at the national political level. The Republican National Committee has released an ad attacking Obama for not passing gun control legislation. What is not mentioned in the ad is that it was the Republicans who filibustered it.