Sunday, November 16, 2008

Liberals and sloppiness

All races, N =2,260

Whites, N = 1,790

I've been around professors for many years. Many of them have filthy offices and seem to take pride in their slovenly ways. They are horrified at the thought of having neatly combed hair. (Liberal) popular culture picked up on this a long time ago and continues to celebrate personal disorderliness. (According to research, a disregard for personal hygiene is a sign of mental disorder).

General Social Survey interviewers ask their questions in people's homes. In 2000, they also recorded how clean the respondent's place was. The top graphs summarizes cleanliness by political views. Conservatives keep a tightier house.

In case you suspect that this is due to the messiness of the homes of poor minorities, look at the bottom graph for whites only. The pattern remains.


  1. Thanks for continuing this work. It's fascinating.

  2. I agree that liberals are messier, but I don't see it as a bad thing. I see it as deprioritizing appearances. That conservative guy down the street who washes his car by hand every Sunday is very neat, but I couldn't imagine spending an hour of every weekend that way.

  3. yeah, from what I remember conservatives have higher conscientiousness and liberals have higher openness to experience.

    Note that these are two separate scales on the Big Five. You can be both or neither. There is a slight negative correlation, but there are plenty of people who fit into these categories (that would be NJs or SPs in myers-briggs.)

  4. Stephen4:52 PM

    That reminds me - I need to buy more bookshelves. A stack of books fell over the other day, and another one is threatening to follow. Horrible mess.

    Oh, and my partner keeps spreading her Phd research material all over the floor - what a mess.

    Our friends must think we're total losers.

    If only our place could be more like our neighbour's house - shelves are filled with well dusted trinkets. They have a set of rather cute little figurines of cats playing.

  5. Anonymous1:22 PM

    Ah, maybe this explains a common trope in movies. In movies, messy people are "real" and lovable and fun. Neat, clean people are portrayed as uptight and harboring scary unsavory secrets.

    It's such a bizarre inversion of values. It's awful living with messy people. It's much nicer living with clean, neat people.

  6. Perhaps self-described liberals evaluate their own cleanliness differently than do self-described conservatives. (For example, they may tend to be more or less self-critical or they may have different social expectations due to age or region.) How do you account for this?

  7. Exactly who were these surveys taken with? If it's like all the other, they're people who favor the left-wing illuminati.


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