Conservatives Have a Bad Feeling About Smart Growth

Bloggers, pundits, authors, and researchers, have made the case for conservatives to embrace the effects of smart growth. Yet still, a distinctly partisan divide flavors the debate about how to make room for a growing number of Americans.

1 minute read

November 18, 2015, 11:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

The Bronx

pisaphotography / Shutterstock

An article by Andrew Keatts digs into the question of why conservatives are resistant to the ideas of smart growth—despite a growing body of research and literature connecting the ideologies of conservative politics and smart growth.

The article follows a paper by Arizona State University professor Paul G. Lewis, titled "Moral Intuitions and Smart Growth: Why do Liberals and Conservatives View Compact Development so Differently [pdf]." Keatts explains one of the findings of Lewis's research: after controlling or race and income, "[s]imply being conservative made people 10 percent less likely to supporting urban development."

But why are conservatives so willing to ignore the expensive government policies and subsidies that enable sprawling development, such as the home mortgage interest deduction and highway construction? Lewis's paper argues that it's the result of "deep-seated, subconscious emotions."

That gut feeling, as it were, is in the realm of a field of study from social psychology known as "social intuitism." Keatts explains: "Essentially, liberals and conservatives are predisposed to certain flash judgments that they don’t recognize, then they rationalize explanations for their views."

The article also explains more about how Lewis's research makes an initial attempt to "demonstrate a connection between moral intuitionism and views on urban development" in the absence of a large-scale study.

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