Applied Statistics

There’s some psychological/political/sociological phenomenon, I can’t remember what it’s called, in which you tend to think of yourself and your allies as a diverse coalition, while thinking of the people on the other side as a monolithic bloc. I was thinking about this when I read this comment by Jeffrey Toobin:

The President is pro-choice . . . But, like many modern pro-choice Democrats, he has worked so hard to be respectful of his opponents on this issue that he sometimes seems to cede them the moral high ground. In his book “The Audacity of Hope,” he describes the “undeniably difficult issue of abortion” and ponders “the middle-aged feminist who still mourns her abortion.” Elsewhere, he announces, “Abortion vexes.” The opponents of abortion aren’t vexed–they are mobilized, focussed, and driven to succeed. The Catholic bishops took the lead in pushing for the Stupak amendment, and they squeezed legislators in a way that would do any K Street lobbyist proud. . . .

Toobin might be right about the Catholic bishops, but more generally it seems to me that the opponents of abortion are very divided. I still remember when abortion-opponent Dan Quayle, when asked what he would do if his daughter decided to have an abortion, that he would “support her on whatever decision she made.”

Maybe Toobin is on to something regarding current political tactics, though. It would be interesting to see how this could be studied, ideally looking at many issues, not just abortion. Perhaps abortion opponents appear more monolithic because abortion is legal, so they can oppose it at the margins without having to agree on the next steps.

Comments

  1. #1 ALex
    December 31, 2009

    Wikipedia calls it “Out-group homogeneity bias”:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outgroup_homogeneity_bias