This idea has been percolating in my head for a while, but was really given form by an article in Slate.com--which of course I can't find now, but here's another study that kind of shows the same thing:
In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.
(Actually, the experiment was reported in early September--I'm just late in finding it.) This study takes self-identified "very conservative" and "very liberal" college students, and watches their brain waves as they conduct a simple task.
The study I read about in Slate was more anthropologistic--again, the researchers looked at the dorm rooms of conservative and liberal college students, and found some distinct personality types. Conservatives tended to have more cleaning products. Liberals had more books. There was a conclusion, IIRC, that the liberal students were more curious and open to new experiences, while conservatives valued stability and order.
Which explains some of the frustration I have been feeling as I have tried to articulate my political opinions to some people who simply Do Not Agree With Me. At. All. Because, you know what? There are SO many issues in an election, and SO many facts that can be slung around, and in the end, it comes down to how you "feel" about those facts and how you weight them.
The William Ayers/domestic terrorist issue? Do you worry that Obama might be heavily influenced or supportive of Ayers past activities? Or do you brush it off as a meaningless acquaintance? Do you see Ayers (currently) as as threat to our country who is trying to recruit bombthrowers? Oo you see Obama as intellectually curious but thoughtful kind of guy who can discern the right thing to do? Do you think criminals can be rehabilitated? Do you think being on a commission with someone constitutes fraternization?
Is Obama too young and untested to be President? Or is he a smart guy who will learn as he grows into the role? How can there be an answer to those questions that is anything like objective? It all depends on whether you are comfortable with ambiguity, or are willing to take risks, and how risky you are willing to be. It's probably got a lot to do with how you experience the world and process information than any sort of logical assessment of objective facts.
So I have come to the conclusion that political discussions are interesting, and serve to force me to organize and articulate what matters to me. Maybe I can convince someone who was kind of leaning in some direction to agree. But I no longer expect that I can persuade someone who is not already looking at the world the same way I am.
So--I am going to vote for Barack Obama. I posted my reasons over here at MinnMoms. Maybe they will persuade someone who is not quite certain. They will not persuade a McCain supporter.