Political Ideology Influences Altruism Globally

Category Science

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In a study conducted by researchers from IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and University of Milan Bicocca, it was found that globally, left-leaning political views exhibit more altruistic behavior, not just within their local communities, but towards international communities. Meanwhile, right-leaning political views tend to be more generous towards their own countries.

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The results from a survey of 46,000 individuals in 68 countries indicate that a tendency towards altruism is less prevalent among those with conservative ideologies.

A recent study conducted by researchers from IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, and University of Milan Bicocca explored the connection between political orientation and the willingness to share with others. The findings indicate that globally, individuals with left-leaning political views tend to exhibit more altruistic behavior, not just within their local communities but also towards the international community as a whole. On the contrary, those with conservative or right-wing political views tend to be more inclined to display altruistic behavior specifically towards their own country.

The survey took place between April and May 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

What may seem like a stereotypical assumption is actually a trend observed globally through a survey spanning 68 countries.

For the study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Veronica Pizziol and colleagues analyzed the data collected on more than 46,000 participants in 68 countries, between April and May 2020. The survey was organized by the International Collaboration on the Social and Moral Psychology of COVID-19 (ICSMP COVID-19), which examines psychological factors underlying the attitudes and behavioral intentions related to COVID-19.

More than 46,000 individuals from 68 countries participated in the survey.

Using the participants’ answers, the study aimed to investigate if and how political ideology, which of course captures one’s beliefs and values about society, is associated with generosity. To measure political ideology, participants were asked to identify their political orientation on a scale from 0 (very left-leaning) to 10 (very right-leaning).

To measure generosity, researchers used participants’ donation decisions in a task with the possibility of donating to a national charity and an international one. The task consisted in answering what percentage of a sum of money people kept for themselves, and how much they gave to a national or international charity working to protect people from COVID-19.

The three types of generosity that were taken into consideration and analyzed were: national (including localism), international (towards the international community), and the sum of the two.

Hence, three different types of generosity were taken into consideration and analyzed: one oriented toward the native country, having its roots in localism, named national generosity; the second, more universalistic, oriented beyond the national boundaries and toward the international community, called international generosity; the third, the sum of the two, identifying generosity in general.

"Analyzing the answers, we found that more left-leaning individuals are more likely to donate in general and also more likely to be generous internationally. More right-leaning people are more likely instead to donate nationally. These findings are very consistent and have been checked to exclude other factors that might have influenced the answers," explains Veronica Pizziol, Ph.D. student in Economics at the IMT School, and first author of the paper. "For example, since the survey was realized during the COVID-19 pandemic, right-leaning people could have shown to be less generous towards COVID-19 charities just because they were less likely to believe COVID-19 to be a big threat. But this was not the case".

The task for the participants was to decide how much of a sum of money they kept for themselves and how much they donated to national and/or international charities working to fight COVID-19.

The global coverage of the dataset allowed the researchers to draw general conclusions about thie tendency throughout the world.

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