In the movie Excalibur, Arthur spoke of a hope he knew he'd never see fulfilled. "It is a dream that I have," he said, thereby suggesting that a forlorn hope is better than no hope at all. During the Los Angeles riots Rodney King said, "Can't we all just get along?" when he saw what was happening in Los Angeles and across the country because of what was at its root a symptom of the divisions between black and white. But what he asked could just as well apply to conservatives and liberals. Unfortunately, in the current political climate, King's plea seems to be as forlorn as the quote from Excalibur.
We liberals often wonder why it is, when the conservatives are presented with facts so obvious, so crystal clear in the health care reform and global warming debates, that they still continue to ignore those facts. But we don't often realize that the conservatives are wondering the same thing about us.
In today's polarized political world, conservatives tend to consider liberals as clueless children, as naive little Pollyannas adrift in a world beyond their comprehension... whereas we liberals tend to frame conservatives as mindless Ayn Rand clones, as Nietzschean fugitives from the wrong side of Pink Floyd's rock opera The Wall.
It's said that there is much truth in jest, and vicious hyperbole aside, it appears that the opinions that liberals and conservatives hold of each other are true at least in some measure. In a 2008 study by scientists at Northwestern University, the scientists found that conservatives tend to fear losing the status quo, the collapse of social institutions such as marriage, family, and government, while liberals tend to fear a life without deep feelings and experiences, a life without real meaning. One of the authors of the study said, "The study findings may shed light on why conservatives prefer more authoritarian leaders while liberals do not."
I suspect that the previous paragraph will only serve to reinforce the opinions that liberal and conservative readers of this article hold of each other.
A 2007 study showed that once a habitual response to a certain stimulus is formed, a conservative is significantly more likely to stick with that response even when the stimulus is changed to something different, whereas a liberal is significantly more likely to give something other than the habitual response when presented with the aforementioned infrequent stimulus. In other words, a liberal adapts more readily to a change in the situation.