At the 2012 Democratic convention, when President Obama mentioned that his administration had killed the terrorist Osama Bin Laden, the building erupted in cheers.
This was positively un-Democratic, to both Democrats and Republicans. Democrats were supposed to be more tolerant of other cultures, with safe spaces for all, and anything that looked like being critical of Muslims was usually frowned upon.
Four years later, things are more normal again. Democrats are more likely to look at a terrorist attack in Orlando as a conflicted gay man in a repressed family, while Republicans believe that his swearing allegiance to terrorist causes makes him a terrorist. Along with many foreigners too. Psychologists at Michigan State University don't use terms like Republican and Democrat, they use conservative and liberal, and they may have a point in not using the political terms; most Republicans are not conservative and most Democrats are not liberal - but there sure aren't many conservative Democrats.
It all sounds confusing but how two large umbrellas view foreigners since Bin Laden's death is more predictable. As evidence, they cite surveys in Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology. "Liberals tend to be more malleable, so their beliefs can change, whereas conservatives are sort of always on guard," said William Chopik, MSU assistant professor of psychology.
There are potential benefits and drawbacks to both viewpoints, Chopik noted.
"Liberals are impressionable in the sense that they readily use information to shape their views when maybe they shouldn't. But then again, maybe conservatives are too on edge - always expecting something to happen when it is very unlikely to happen. This has implications for things like how politicians appropriate money for defense and approach diplomacy, but also how ordinary people approach everyday situations with others they disagree with."
Chopik and Sara Konrath of Indiana University surveyed 480 people on their views toward foreigners for five weeks after bin Laden's death by U.S. military forces on May 2, 2011. Participants read two essays about the United States ostensibly written by foreigners - one pro-America and one anti-America - and then evaluated the truth of each essay, their agreement with each essay and also rated the authors' likability, intelligence and knowledge.
Immediately following bin Laden's death, liberals evaluated foreigners much more favorably than conservatives, the study found. As the weeks passed, however, liberals became increasingly more biased toward foreigners. Conservatives' views did not change and remained more negative toward foreigners than liberals' views at all points during the study.
Interestingly, the researchers had conducted the five-week survey a year before bin Laden's death and found that liberals' viewpoint of foreigners did not fluctuate during that period (but liberals remained overall more favorable of foreigners than did conservatives).
Chopik said liberals and conservatives tend to draw on different moral foundations that stress different values. Liberals tend to prioritize tolerance and fairness, while conservatives tend to draw on a broader set of values that include those stressed by liberals, but also loyalty and authority.