Okay, let's review. Here's what we know. We know that liberals care about people, while conservatives only care about themselves. We know that religious conservatives claim to care about people but only care about their own religious groups. We are pretty sure that liberals out-give conservatives and we are confident that they out-volunteer conservatives. We certainly know that liberals are the primary support for such causes as animal rights, environmentalist movements, and the like. We're all pretty confident about these facts.
So along comes Arthur C. Brooks. Dr. Brooks is Professor of Public Administration and Director of the Nonprofit Studies Program at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Dr. Brooks has written a book called Who Really Cares. And Dr. Brooks is causing a stir.
Dr. Brooks's first observation is that charitable giving is fundamentally tied to one's religious beliefs and practices. If you are very religious, you are much more likely to give. This giving does not include church giving, but does take into account charitable giving and volunteering as well as other things such as giving blood. In fact, according to Dr. Brooks, if liberals gave blood at the same rate as conservatives, the blood reserves would be up 45%. And, as it turns out, these same religious folks are the ones who are giving most to secular causes such as animal rights, environmentalism, and the like.
It seems that one's economic condition plays a factor in one's willingness to give. Statistically, the American working poor are, relative to their income, some of the most generous people in America today while those with above-average incomes say they don't have enough money.
Perhaps we were wrong in what we thought we knew. When my son was in junior high school, he came home excited because he had learned something about politics. "Our teacher taught us the difference between a liberal and a conservative," he beamed. "A liberal wants to help others, while a conservative only wants to help himself." Well, teacher, it would appear that, while your perceptions are likely in line with a lot of others, they are quite wrong. It appears that conservatives care about people more than liberals, and that, wonder of wonders, the leading indicator of whether or not a person will actively involve themselves in helping others is whether or not they have a real, living religious life. How odd! It appears the "popular view" might be wrong!