A large majority of citizens think elections in the United States do not affect change in Washington's policies. They believe government decisions mostly benefit the wealthy who rig the system for themselves. So, why do so many uninformed voters support policy-empty slogans? Could it be more of an emotional exercise than a mental one?
At some level, each of all seven-plus billion humans lives in a different reality. I can't fully get inside your mind. With our best efforts, you cannot see the world exactly like I do. However, we humans cluster into a half-dozen or so powerful and conflicting existential worldviews.
War of Worldviews
The current campaign is a battleground to control reality-shaping beliefs. In a waning, but still powerful world culture--it is part of a worldwide struggle of unprovable beliefs being fought with evangelical ferocity regardless of their religious or secular bases. American politics is just a proxy war for these competing existential worldviews.
Given the present fragmentation of species' consciousness, the worldview concept is not an academic fantasy. It is the basis of conflicts involving access to wealth and natural resources and use of deadly weapons. It prevents creation of a human-friendly economy, maintenance of a viable ecosystem, and development of a civil political order.
In its first two centuries, the United States developed institutions to protect individual freedoms. But, with increasing technologies and population that weaken the planet's ecological health, humans need group-focused institutions to successfully live together.
Once again, America is the focal point in a global experiment: Can we treat worldviews of others as worthy of consideration as our own? Do we have the courage to submit our most sacred cosmological beliefs to a public re-examination? Can we find ways to synthesize conflicting worldviews into a bigger picture that includes all the evidence?
The human mind lives in a cosmos of uncertainty. When we don't know the answers to existential questions (who, what, and where are we?), we make up answers that give us a sense of certainty. These assumptions foster a sense of a stability when we confront a lack of knowledge or fears created by a world that we can't understand or dominate.
On the positive side, fundamental worldviews generate a sense of personal pride. They motivate us to take on hardships or feel worthy when among people who are unlike us. They even determine how we face death. It is self-evident that belief is a tangible force.
Psychologists have identified different behavioral patterns linked to varying worldviews. For the general reader, Scientific American on-line has described studies that have face validity in that they link particular beliefs with behaviors. Following are some examples:
Emily Laber-Warren writes "According to the experts who study political leanings, liberals and conservatives do not just see things differently. They are different--in their personalities and even their unconscious reactions to the world around them."
Jesse Bering concludes that "We're all susceptible to tales of the supernatural ... but genuine belief matters. [In a laboratory experiment a] concocted spiritual entity ... was real enough in their minds ... to affect ... behavior in an empirically demonstrable way."
According to Daisy Grewal "Choice is a fundamental American [worldview] belief ... Recent research suggests that thinking about our lives in terms of choices may reduce our support for public policies that promote greater equality in society."
In an attempt to identify worldview sets that appear to be responsible for significantly different behaviors, I use a questionnaire about basic beliefs that divide people into four distinguishable groups. The groups have different psychological profiles and represent a spectrum of behavioral patterns. The questionnaire is also used in self-assessments.
Studies like those above appear to support the hypothesis that existential assumptions shape wide areas of our behavior. They also suggest that deeply embedded beliefs are also mutable in the right circumstances. Otherwise, ideology trumps such a process.