When my husband, David, was a student at Harvard Law School, his fellow students couldn’t stomach his conservatism. They talked endlessly about how Christians and conservatives were pompous, didn’t care about justice, and were far too concerned about abortion and gay issues than the kinds of things that really mattered. Mainly, they talked about poverty, how to reduce it and how Republicans were more worried about making money than helping the down-and-out.
One day, David saw a notice about a club at Harvard that actually went into impoverished areas and tried to help kids trapped in unfortunate circumstances — by getting the Harvard students to “adopt” a little brother or sister and take them under the student’s wing. He showed up at the first meeting to sign up and was very surprised. Though practically every self-described liberal talked incessantly about their “concern for the poor,” almost everyone who actually showed up for the meeting was a Christian. David “adopted” a little brother, took him to baseball games and developed a meaningful friendship with him. His Christian friends did the same. But he learned an important fact: Liberals talk about helping the poor; conservatives actually help the poor.
David’s experience at Harvard was hardly an isolated incident. Remember when Al Gore — vice president at the time — released his 1997 tax return, which showed he gave a paltry $353 to charity? Or later when it was revealed then-vice presidential candidate Joe Biden gave only $369 a year to charity during the decade leading up to his campaign?
New research shows these anecdotes are indicative of a larger trend. According to the Huffington Post, liberals are simply stingier than conservatives:
People who live in deeply religious regions of the country — the solid-red states of the Bible Belt and Utah — give more of their income to charity than those who don’t. Of the top 10 most generous states, according to a Chronicle of Philanthropy study based on itemized charitable contributions among people who made at least $50,000, nine voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
The article, titled “One Thing Red States Do Better Than Blue States,” caused an uproar in the HuffPo comments section. It can’t be true that those mean ol’ Republicans actually care more than liberals? Can it?
Well, in 2007, Arthur Brooks wrote a book about charitable giving titled “Who Really Cares.” He too was shocked to discover homes headed by conservatives gave 30% more than those headed by liberals. Conservatives even gave blood more frequently. An op-ed in the New York Times quotes Brooks as saying, “If liberals and moderates gave blood as often as conservatives, the American blood supply would increase by 45 percent.”
He went on to admit this was not what he thought would be true:
“When I started doing research on charity,” Mr. Brooks wrote, “I expected to find that political liberals — who, I believed, genuinely cared more about others than conservatives did — would turn out to be the most privately charitable people. So when my early findings led me to the opposite conclusion, I assumed I had made some sort of technical error. I re-ran analyses. I got new data. Nothing worked. In the end, I had no option but to change my views.”
So, the next time you hear a liberal talking about “social justice” and “caring for the poor,” maybe you can tell him that the good thoughts in his head don’t put clothes on anyone’s back, food in anyone’s mouth, nor can thoughts alone mentor a troubled kid who just needs a friend.
Of course, not all liberals are stingy and not all conservatives are generous but the overall differences between the two communities are so stark that perhaps the media needs to rethink its stereotypes.
Or, better yet, maybe lefties need to put down their lattes, pick up a hammer and go help a neighbor. And when they do, they’ll get an unexpected bonus: They’ll meet some friendly conservatives who were there long before the liberals.
Nancy A. French is a New York Times best-selling author who lives in Tennessee. Follow her on Twitter @NancyAFrench
- This study shows why conservatives are better (rare.us)
- Chronicle of Philanthropy: Red States Are More Charitable Than Blue States (taxprof.typepad.com)