When the term “conservative” comes to mind, so do the ideas of prohibiting gay marriage and the distribution of contraceptives alongside less government interference and a hatred for programs that foster government reliance.

What’s so surprising is that residents of the most conservative states — those people who elect the hard-line conservatives who in turn promise to ban government interference — receive 21.2 percent of their income from the federal government, as opposed to 17.1 percent for residents of the most liberal states. Currently, the GOP is more conservative than ever before, going all the way back to 1879. Therefore, it is logical that the Republican candidates are strongly opposed to increasing the safety net also known as government reliance.

The American public has witnessed the way life has unfolded under the Obama administration. According to GOP candidate Rick Santorum, one of the most prominent issues that Obama fosters is America’s addiction to “the narcotic of dependency.”

Despite what Santorum believes, Obama hasn’t set out to radically expand the safety net. Rather, the poor state of the economy has reduced personal incomes to such a level that more and more people are becoming eligible for unemployment benefits.

We must then question why it is that the people who utilize government programs the most are voting against that which they rely on so heavily.

The fact of the matter is that government beneficiaries are simply confused about where they fit into the system.

According to Suzanne Mettler of Cornell University, 44 percent of Social Security recipients, 43 percent of those receiving unemployment benefits and 40 percent of those on Medicare have said that they “have not used a government program.”

So I wonder why it is that people vote conservative — especially if they are dependent upon programs that conservatives are attempting to eliminate.

“Conservatism is a partially heritable personality trait,” said Jonathan Haidt, associate professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. “[It] predisposes some people to be cognitively inflexible, fond of hierarchy, and inordinately afraid of uncertainty, change, and death. People vote Republican because Republicans offer ‘moral clarity’ — a simple vision of good and evil that activates deep seated fears in much of the electorate.”

Haidt’s analysis of conservative voters’ reasoning makes sense, considering that Americans who regularly attend church are more likely to vote Republican. Therefore, the whole idea of “moral clarity” settles in place because people of God, or people who believe in a higher power in general, generally are searching for just that.

In reality, those who identify with Republican party conservatism based primarily on spiritual principles don’t realize that some of policies that they so adamantly stand against, are in fact policies that they benefit from.

The fact of the matter is that too many people neglect to support themselves fully and instead choose to rely heavily on government programs. The expansion of these government programs — whether it’s Medicare, Social Security, welfare or something else — is telling people that they can fall back on the government. It allows them to believe that they have one less thing to worry about when in reality it is fostering the crippling idea that they will gain more from the government if they are less successful within the realms of their own lives.