Today's #lunchWithAConservative managed to expose what I think is an interesting hypothesis regarding Republican voters.
I think it started when he rejected the idea of "science by consensus" (we were talking about global warming, of course), while admitting that neither of us was really qualified to evaluate the full evidence.
I asked: if you can't evaluate the evidence properly on your own and you don't believe you can trust the experts, then how do you decide? ...to which his response was "well, I don't really care that much about it".
From that, he went on to suggest that a lot of Republican anti-sanity (my term -- by which I mean anti-environmentalism, anti-feminism, etc.) is driven by annoyance at those who are passionately in favor of such things -- and that since he basically doesn't care about them, he can be driven to vote against them by too-passionate ("holier-than-thou") proponents.
(...which is partly because he can't be bothered to research the issues far enough to see which positions are at least consistent with the facts, which would reveal that said passion is entirely merited. He brought up GW denialist Bjorn Lomborg, mentioning that he found Lomborg credible because he's clearly "not stupid" -- but essentially rejected the idea that Lomborg might be deliberately distorting the truth, or might himself be deceived in spite of being intelligent. So what's that, science-by-whoever-sounds-credible?)
The hypothesis, then: Republican voters are people who don't care enough about actual issues to check the facts they're given, and who can therefore be gently nudged into harmful positions through the judicious use of counterfactuals.
This doesn't seem like a particularly original observation when I put it that way... but I think the key is the low level of concern regarding whether their positions are based on fact or not, possibly abetted by a high willingness to trust individuals who give off the right social signals.
This isn't to say that other prevailing hypotheses (e.g. Republican beliefs are driven by fear and disgust) are wrong, but they're not the whole picture. Fear and disgust are the tools used to drive Republican voters into certain formations; lack of concern for the truth is the reason why they can be driven so easily -- all of which is consistent with authoritarian followership.
Executive summary: Republican voters are
sheep intellectually lazy.
Somewhat relatedly: the latest iteration of my book idea would be titled something like 101 Things Liberals Can't Believe You Still Don't Understand