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Helen Smith

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March 13, 2012 - 1:37 pm

This new survey from Pew finding that liberals are the least tolerant of differing opinions, at least on line was not surprising at all to me:

Politics can be a sensitive subject and a number of SNS users have decided to block, unfriend, or hide someone because of their politics or posting activities. In all, 18% of social networking site users have taken one of those steps by doing at least one of the following:

10% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because that person posted too frequently about political subjects
9% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they posted something about politics or issues that they disagreed with or found offensive
8% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they argued about political issues on the site with the user or someone the user knows
5% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they posted something about politics that the user worried would offend other friends
4% of SNS users have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on the site because they disagreed with something the user posted about politics
Of course, that means that 82% of SNS users have not taken any steps to ignore or disconnect from someone whose views are different – or have not encountered any views that would prompt such a move.

Liberals are the most likely to have taken each of these steps to block, unfriend, or hide. In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates.

It reminded me of the work of psychology professor Jonathan Haidt, author of the new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion who found that conservatives understand liberals much better than liberals understand conservatives.

It seems that conservatives can put themselves in the shoes of liberals but it often doesn’t work the other way around: hence conservatives often have a thicker skin and a more tolerant attitude than liberals and are less likely to kick someone off their Facebook page. This does not concern me much, for kicking someone off their blog or Facebook is acceptable. But trying to use the government to kick people like Rush Limbaugh or media outlets like Fox News off the airwaves because liberals disagree with them is unacceptable and exposes the left’s lack of empathy and tolerance. I often question how far liberals will go in their inability to accept other points of view. If their handling of Andrew Breitbart’s death is any indication, Facebook bans are the least of our problems.

Update: Oops, I see that Bryan Preston wrote about this topic this morning. I am late to the party.

Helen Smith is a psychologist specializing in forensic issues in Knoxville, Tennessee, and blogs at Dr. Helen.
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