Moore and Limbaugh are prominent firebrands of the American left and right, respectively, and each has a very large audience. We wondered: Do the respective supporters of polar-opposite thought leaders behave differently in terms of their moral and ethical choices?
To get some answers, we dug into Hunch’s THAY (Teach Hunch About You) database of 2,000 questions and more than 80 million responses. For the purposes of this analysis we’ll compare Moore, representing the farther left side of the spectrum and Rush Limbaugh, representing the right. (Note that we found that Jon Stewart fans often answer THAY questions somewhere in the middle of how Moore and Limbaugh fans do.)
1) Limbaugh fans are less empathetic than Moore fans.
- 65% of Limbaugh fans would oppose giving clean needles to drug addicts in order to prevent disease, while 77% of Moore fans would support such an initiative.
- Limbaugh fans are 3.5 times more likely to say war is justified in “many scenarios” beyond retaliation and defense.
- When it comes to support for the death penalty, 84% of Limbaugh fans support its use and 55% of Moore fans oppose it.
- 73% of Limbaugh fans say racial profiling keep airports safer with 73% of Moore fans disagree with that premise.
Thus, we can say conclude that the views of both groups differ on right and wrong. This is a rather predictable result. Given the global warming skepticism of the Limbaugh fans, for example, it makes sense that they are six times less likely to see climate change as their most serious concern. Yet to what extent, if no one is watching, do these groups follow their principles? This leads us to our next discovery:
2) Michael Moore fans are bigger Hypocrites
In one example, Moore fans were 40% more likely to say they’d “cheat on a significant other if there were no chance of being caught.”
- Yet this isn’t because Moore fans think cheating is okay, as they are 71% less likely to always forgive a significant other for cheating on them.
From these questions we can see Moore fans generally think cheating is bad, especially when done to them, but are far more likely to do it if they didn’t think they’d get caught. There seems to be a general pattern emerging here:
- Even though most respondents reacted negatively when a vending machine takes their money, Moore fans who find the door to a newspaper dispenser ajar are 22% more likely to take the paper without paying.
- Moore fans say they are 20% more likely to “steal” rather than “beg.”
- They’re 50% more likely to consider letting a prisoner out of jail for a 10% raise, and if a $60 bottle of wine was left off the bill after a “great meal with great service”, Moore fans are 27% more likely not to say anything. If this happened to Limbaugh supporters, 67% of them (but just 55% of Moore fans) would disclose the error to the server.
- One counterexample: athough Limbaugh supporters are over 2.5 times more likely to strongly favor “swift and severe” drug sentencing, they clearly are willing to look past Limbaugh’s own personal history on this issue.
One thing to consider is whether both groups are being equally truthful in their responses to these questions. It is possible that rather than being more hyppocritical, Moore fans are just more honest. The data we have presented can be interpreted in many ways.
3) Moore fans give less moral weight to corporations
Although both Moore and Limbaugh fans are unlikely to see theft as good, Moore fans are far more likely to justify it when dealing with a corporate entity, or are in a situation where they don’t fear getting caught:
- For example, 66% of Moore fans think it’s ok to at least occasionally steal office supplies from work (vs. 53% of Limbaugh fans).
- Moore fans are 29% more likely to think that illegal downloaders should be just “left alone” rather than punished or warned–probably because over 60% think “the publishers make millions of dollars regardless.“
Not only are Moore fans more reluctant to afford companies moral weight, they also feel that the behavior or personality of another person can justify doing wrong against them:
- 60% of Moore fans would report finding an amount of more than $50 on the street to authorities, yet if a “jerk” drops a $20 bill but doesn’t notice, 49% of Moore fans wouldn’t alert the person or return their money. This group is less likely to return money to someone they have just seen physically drop it than to an anonymous person if they think the former is a “jerk.”
- Limbaugh fans by comparison are 50% more likely to report a found $50, and 63% would return a jerk’s dropped money. Thus Limbaugh fans seem more willing to treat both corporate entities and persons they dislike with equal moral consideration.
These results paint a consistent picture of Moore fans having principles that they seem far more likely to violate. This raises the question: Are such actions taken against the respondent’s better judgment, or do the respondents actually believe their actions to be justified, despite inconsistencies in their responses? It seems that Moore fans are far more likely to justify actions they consider bad by claiming the action’s recipient is somehow less moral than they (as in the jerk example) or simply not worry about it if they don’t think they’d get caught.
- Both groups have a high voter turn out, and are very politically engaged. Over 70% of Moore fans and 80% of Limbaugh fans say they voted in the last presidential election.
- Limbaugh fans are 25% more likely to have considered running for office than Moore fans. Limbaugh fans skew slightly older, but not enough to explain this difference.
- Moore fans, however, are 50% more likely to have been to a political protest in the last year.
- Limbaugh fans are 40% more likely to have donated to a political candidate.
- This leads us to believe that both groups are highly engaged politically, though Moore fans feel it more effective to work from outside the political system.
And don’t forget what we found earlier in our earlier Hunch report Voting in an Echo Chamber: The Myth of the “Informed” Vote, which established that people seek out media which supports their preexisting views.
- Neither group of fans is morally perfect. For example, a majority of fans in both groups say it’s ok to steal office suppliers and indicate that they’ve cheated on tests in high school or college.
- While Michael Moore’s philosophy and films reflect prevailing themes of fairness, social well being, and getting involved to help each other, the data above suggests that many of their moral and ethical choices are actually for their own benefit, sometimes even at the expense of other individuals.
- Moore fans generally favor policies which give them the ability to act as they wish; Limbaugh fans tend to support policies which are “fair” and within the law.
- Michael Moore fans show a consistently greater tendency than Limbaugh fans towards participating in (or accepting) behavior which is currently illegal.
What do you think? Keep it civil, please…