Morality and Political Ideology: A Critique of Moral Foundations Theory

Abstract

Research on the relationship between morality and political orientation using the moral foundations questionnaire (MFQ; Graham et al., 2009; Graham et al., 2013) has found that while liberals and conservatives are both concerned with harm and fairness (the “individualizing values”), conservatives value obedience to authority, ingroup loyalty and purity (the “binding values”) more than liberals. However, multiple items in the MFQ are confounded with political attitudes and identity. In a correlational study (n = 540) in which we altered these fraught scale items to be more politically neutral, the relationships between political orientation and harm, loyalty, obedience to authority, and purity were significantly weakened. We also examined the relationship between morality and political orientation using the morality-as-cooperation questionnaire (MAC-Q; Curry 2016; Curry et al., 2019). In two studies (total n = 900), the correlations between the MAC-Q foundations and political orientation were substantially weaker than those of the MFQ, except for deference to authority.

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