To test these ideas, Elad-Strenger and her colleagues initially studied groups of German students. These groups consisted of roughly equal numbers leftists (most liberal), centrists and rightists (most conservative). The participants completed a general disgust sensitivity questionnaire, which assessed how often and how much they felt disgusted in daily life, and were also presented with various potentially disgust-eliciting scenarios. Some of these were designed to be “liberal” disgust-elicitors (scenarios concerning tax evasion, racism, xenophobia and capitalism, for example) while others were potentially more disgusting to conservatives (those referring to homosexuality, the consumption of illegal drugs and a homeless person begging for money, for instance). The participants were asked to rate how disgusted and angry each of these scenarios made them feel.
The team found no relationship between scores on the general disgust scale and political orientation. Neither did the conservatives report more disgust overall than the liberals. However, liberals were more affected by the liberal-disgust scenarios, while conservatives were more disgusted by the conservative-disgust selection (especially those relating to homosexuality). “Taken together, these results challenge the notion that conservatives are generally more disgust-sensitive than liberals,” the researchers note.