A week in the zoo

January 26, 2012

President Obama’s State of the Union speech (full text here, sample line: ‘So far, you haven’t acted. Well, tonight, I will.’ AND THE CROWD GOES WILD!!!) was, apparently, partisan; although I doubt any of the politicians and commentators making this complaint were really very surprised.

Because frankly who wouldn’t adopt a partisan tone when the men jostling to face him in November include current front-runner Newt Gingrich who judging by recent statements cares more about establishing a base on the moon than tackling Florida’s housing crisis.

In any case all the President is doing is – if recent research is to be believed – reflecting the fact that in a very basic physiological sense, Republicans and Democrats are different creatures.

The research in question is covered by The Economist in this entertaining piece. Dr Michael Dodd of the University of Nebraska probed the physical and emotional responses of self-identified right- and left-leaning Nebraskans when they were shown different vivid images (in two studies, one with undergraduates; as a footnote: anyone who follows popular science reporting will wonder, with me, how undergraduates find time to do any studying in amidst taking part in this kind of experiment on an apparently daily basis).

The short version of the findings is that Republicans obsessed about the nasty images and cared less about the nice stuff, and Democrats did exactly the opposite. And the more partisan, the more pronounced the effect.

We know from previous forays into blogging about US partisanship that party affiliation comes first: driving political views rather than the other way around. So, frankly, based on this new conclusive evidence, the President’s decision to thump his tub a little was the right one.


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