Articulating ideology: How liberals and conservatives justify political affiliations using morality-based explanations
Two studies examined the degree to which participants’ were aware of their morality-based motivations when determining their political affiliations. Participants from the U.S. indicated what political party (if any) they affiliated with and explained their reasons for that affiliation. For participants who identified as “Liberal/Democrat” or “Conservative/Republican,” coders read the responses and identified themes associated with Moral Foundations Theory. In Study 1, thematic differences between liberals and conservatives paralleled previous research, although the extent of the disparities was more pronounced than expected, with the two groups showing little overlap. In Study 2, the actual influence of Moral Foundations (as measured by the Moral Foundations Questionnaire) was dramatically greater than was indicated by the coding of participants’ open-ended responses. In addition, actual disparities in use of Moral Foundations between liberals and conservatives were greater than participants’ stereotyped perceptions. We discuss how this research furthers our understanding of conscious motivations for political affiliation and can help to facilitate political discourse.