Liberals are sometimes accused of caricaturing conservatives as "dogmatic, intolerant of ambiguity...and uncomfortable with complex modes of thinking," as the NYTimes sums it up.
But that stereotype is all wrong, argues political psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book The Righteous Mind. Conservatives are actually far more morally complex than liberals.
Conservatives make moral judgments based on all six of the "moral foundations" identified by Haidt. Those six foundations are care-harm, fairness-cheating, liberty-oppression, loyalty-betrayal, authority-subversion, sanctity-degradation (pictured above).
Liberals, however, respond to events based mainly on just two foundations: care-harm and liberty-oppression (see image). Those moral principles underly liberal support for the social safety net and progressive taxation.
Libertarians have a moral range that's even narrower than liberals, according to Haidt. They base moral decisions primarily on the principle of liberty vs. oppression, valuing freedom over every other moral consideration.
Haidt argues that if we understand these differences, it can help us to bridge the partisan gulf. Not because we can change our own beliefs. But we can become more respectful of others with very different beliefs, rather than just dismissing conservatism - or liberalism - as simple-minded dogmatism.
Via Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind.