More similar than they think: Liberals and conservatives exaggerate perceived moral views

Dec 12, 2012

Moral stereotypes about "typical" liberals and conservatives held by both groups are generally correct, but exaggerated both for their own group and the other, according to new research published December 12 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Jesse Graham at the University of Southern California and his colleagues at the University of Virginia and New York University.

The researchers asked 2,212 U.S participants to answer questions about moral beliefs either with their own views, or with their idea of a typical liberal or conservative person's answers. They found that liberals endorsed individualistic moral concerns of compassion and fairness more than conservatives, and conservatives endorsed group-focused concerns such as loyalty and respect for authority. Across the political spectrum, participants' responses correctly reflected the moral endorsements of "typical" liberals and conservatives, but increased the extremity of the views. The authors found that these perceived stereotypes exaggerated the moral ideologies of both the respondent's own group as well as that of the other group, and that liberals were least accurate about the views held by both groups.

Graham explains, "Rather than finding that liberals think conservatives are immoral, and conservatives think the same about liberals, we found that all three groups shared exaggerated moral stereotypes about partisans on either side. These moral were basically that liberals don't care at all about loyalty, authority, and sanctity, and that conservatives don't care at all about compassion, fairness, and equality. The findings suggest that liberals and conservatives, while differing systematically in their moral worldviews, are actually more similar in their than anyone thinks."

Explore further: Enhanced communication key to successful teamwork in dynamic environments

More information: Graham J, Nosek BA, Haidt J (2012) The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences across the Political Spectrum. PLoS ONE 7(12): e50092. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0050092

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

People apply principles inconsistently, study finds

Oct 08, 2010

Is it morally appropriate to sacrifice the life of an innocent person to save the lives of several others? David Pizarro, Cornell assistant professor of psychology, put a fresh spin on this classic question from philosophy.

Political views are reflected in brain structure

Apr 07, 2011

We all know that people at opposite ends of the political spectrum often really can't see eye to eye. Now, a new report published online on April 7th in Current Biology reveals that those differences in political orientation are ti ...

Recommended for you

The changing landscape of religion

5 hours ago

Religion is a key factor in demography, important for projections of future population growth as well as for other social indicators. A new journal, Yearbook of International Religious Demography, is the first to bring a quan ...

Abusive leadership infects entire team

5 hours ago

Supervisors who are abusive to individual employees can actually throw the entire work team into conflict, hurting productivity, finds new research led by a Michigan State University business scholar.

User comments : 0