Caveman Politics

How evolution impacts politics.

Which of the 5 Political Moralizers are PT Blog readers?

Political Moralizer results are in, and PT Blog readers are very interesting.

Want to know what your fellow PT blog readers are like? I recently posted about the five types of political moralizing and offered an anonymous assessment questionnaire for readers to find out what kind of political moralizer they are. The results are in, and they say interesting things about our fellow PT blog readers. 

If you want to read the details about political moralizing see “Which of the 5 Types of Political Moralizer are You?” If you missed it the first time, you can find out what kind of political moralizer you are if you complete the questionnaire here 

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When making judgments with moral implications, people tend to focus on five universal concepts that have been identified by evolutionary and anthropological research:

  1. harm/care
  2. fairness/reciprocity
  3. in-group/loyalty
  4. authority/respect
  5. purity/sanctity

And different people focus more strongly on some of these concepts than others. For instance, there’s research showing that political liberals focus more on harm/care and fairness/reciprocity, while political conservatives focus more on the other three. 

So an important case can be made that one of the defining differences between liberals and conservatives is how they judge the morality of various situations.  


WARNING LABEL: This is not a scientifically drawn random sample, so these results only represent those lucky readers who responded.  

Starting with the basics, almost 450 PT blog readers completed the anonymous questionnaire between mid-March and mid-May. Fifty-two percent were female, and about half had 15 years or more of education. The ages ranged from 14 to 96 with an average age of 35. More than three out of four were white/Caucasian, and almost 10% were Asian. Politically, more than 50% identified with the Democratic Party (leaning liberal), 35% indicated they were independents, and the rest identified with the Republican Party (leaning conservative). Finally, readers responded from six of the seven continents (excluding Antarctica; I guess the penguins are too short to reach the keyboard). Take a look at a map of some of the locations of responders.



Overall, the first figure shows that PT blog readers focused most on Fairness (average score of 5.1 out of 7) and Harm (4.9) concerns when evaluating the hypothetical political candidate. In-group Loyalty, Authority, and Purity fell far behind (ranging from 3.6 down to 2.8). But this interesting result is probably mostly a consequence of the much larger number of liberal than conservative respondents.


One of the reasons this research is so remarkable is because of the divergence between political liberals and conservatives on the use of these concepts of morality. The second figure makes the differences clear for PT blog Political Moralizers. Democrats (liberals) score more than a point higher on Harm and Fairness than Republicans (conservatives), while Republicans score a point or more higher on In-group, Authority, and Purity than Democrats.

The other interesting feature of the second graph is how the Republican readers use the concepts more equally than Democratic readers, with the scores for conservative respondents ranging from 4.0 to 4.4, while the scores for liberal respondents ranging from 2.5 to 5.4.   

While there were divergences between the competing political orientations, the differences between female and male PT blog readers are fairly small, particularly compared to the student respondents who completed the questionnaire for the first Political Moralizer post. According to the third graph, women were more concerned with Harm and Fairness than men, but the sexes were about equal in terms of In-group, Authority, and Purity. This is contrary to other research suggesting women also focus more on Purity than men. 

Interestingly, the patterns for age and education are very similar to that of sex, but with even smaller differences. That is, the differences between groups in the highest and lowest levels of age are tiny as are the differences between groups in the highest and lowest levels of education. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough respondents from some of the continents to make useful geographic comparisons.  


Despite the small differences found between many of the groups, it is clear the ideological differences are quite large. As a citizen, I worry about the often harsh nature of political dialogue driven by ideological orientation. The Sunday morning talking-heads shows often feature partisan opponents “debating” the pressing issues of the week, and it looks to me like they usually hold each other in complete contempt. They seem to think their opponent is either evil or stupid and probably both.  

As a scientist, I know research suggests otherwise. Researchers have found important differences between the fundamental moral values of political liberals and conservatives, and these value differences have been tied to biological characteristics. In other words, political differences cannot always be attributed to willful partisan misconduct. They also may emerge, at least partially, because of forces beyond the conscious control of the individual (e.g., genetic inheritance, disgust sensitivity 1 and 2, brain structure, and brain function).  

Hopefully, the talking heads will remember this. I could use a little more peace on Sunday mornings, although I don’t feel like I need nearly as much peace since I now know a little more about my PT blog readers.  

Do these results reflect what you know about your fellow PT blog readers? Leave a comment and let me know.

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If you enjoyed this post, please share it by email or on Facebook orTwitter. Follow me on Twitter @GreggRMurray or “Like” me on Facebook to see other interesting research.   

Gregg R. Murray, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Texas Tech University.


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