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An Empirical Test of the Competing Cofnas and MacDonald Hypotheses on Religious and Political Orientation

Curtis S. Dunkel


Published: 2020/09/01


The purpose of this brief research note is to test competing explanations for differences in political orientation between Jews and Christians. MacDonald’s group evolutionary theory suggests that Jews who live in Gentile societies may act to push those societies in a more politically left-wing direction, thereby undermining these societies’ cohesive sense of nationalism. Jewish intellectuals are motivated to achieve this outcome due to their high in-group favoritism and are able to achieve it due to their higher intelligence. An alternative explanation is Cofnas’ “default hypothesis”, which states that high intelligence and urbanization, not in-group favoritism, account for the Jewish left-wing tilt. Using data from the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study it was found that Jews, indeed, identify as more politically left-wing than Catholics and Lutherans. However, this left-wing political orientation did not appear to be due to heightened Jewish intelligence, in-group preference, or urbanization. Thus support for neither the MacDonald nor the Cofnas hypothesis was found. The results suggest the need for different explanations and it is posited that it may be fruitful to examine the nature and origins of the WEIRD mindset.

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