Finding the Limits of Empathy

In order to campaign effectively, President Obama and Mitt Romney have to figure each other’s supporters out. It isn’t easy.

 

Politically engaged liberals and conservatives exhibit strikingly different levels of empathy. The following chart, constructed by Iyer, illustrates this beautifully: Ravi Iyer, “A Difference Between Democrats and Republicans .”

 

The more interested in politics a conservative is, the lower his (or her) level of empathy. Liberals move in the opposite direction: the more interested in politics they are, the more empathetic. Empathy, in case you’re wondering, is measured by responses to 28 statements in the “Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index,” including “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me,” “I sometimes find it difficult to see things from the ‘other guy’s’ point of view,” 

 

By THOMAS B. EDSALL