Most complaints about gridlock in Washington include a plea for more compromise between the two parties. But do American voters actually want more compromise? New research from a political psychologist at the University at Montana suggests that voters do want compromise—but only when the other side compromises.
While voters want “compromise” in a general sense, when it comes to a negotiation on a specific issue they see compromise by their elected official as caving in. Americans believe that consistency and firm beliefs are a key component of leadership, which results in our conflicting desire for both compromise and a leader who sticks to his beliefs.
What explains this contradiction? According to this new research, our American culture that emphasizes a hyper-individualistic norm is partly to blame. In their hyper-individualistic mindset, Americans see behavior as driven by the individual instead of being driven by the context. So, for example, while we may seek compromise in our own life and view it as a good thing, when others do it (politicians) we see it as a lack of core principles, or caving in. Other (often non-Western) countries that see behavior as contextually driven are more likely to value compromise from their elected officials.
It appears that the rigid, uncompromising politicians of today may actually have it right. Americans may think they want compromise, but when it gets down to the dirty details, they don’t want their guy to cave.
Here is a link to the full story on National Public Radio: NPR: why-compromise-is-terrible-politics