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The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences Across the Political Divide

26 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2012  

Jesse Graham

University of Southern California

Brian A. Nosek

University of Virginia

Jonathan Haidt

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business

Date Written: January 1, 2011

Abstract

We investigated the moral stereotypes political liberals and conservatives have of themselves and each other. In reality, liberals endorse the individual-focused moral concerns of compassion and fairness more than conservatives do, and conservatives endorse the group-focused moral concerns of ingroup loyalty, respect for authorities and traditions, and physical/spiritual purity more than liberals do. 2,212 U.S. participants filled out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire with their own answers, or as a typical liberal or conservative would answer. Across the political spectrum, moral stereotypes about “typical” liberals and conservatives correctly reflected the direction of actual differences in foundation endorsement but exaggerated the magnitude of these differences. Contrary to common theories of stereotyping, the moral stereotypes were not simple underestimations of the political outgroup’s morality. Both liberals and conservatives exaggerated the ideological extremity of moral concerns for the ingroup as well as the outgroup. Liberals were least accurate about both groups.

Keywords: ideology, morality, stereotypes, liberals, conservatives

Suggested Citation

Graham, Jesse and Nosek, Brian A. and Haidt, Jonathan, The Moral Stereotypes of Liberals and Conservatives: Exaggeration of Differences Across the Political Divide (January 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2027266 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2027266

Jesse Graham (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
United States
2137409535 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.usc.edu/grahamlab

Brian A. Nosek

University of Virginia ( email )

1400 University Ave
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Jonathan Haidt

New York University (NYU) - Leonard N. Stern School of Business ( email )

NYU-Stern School of Business
44 West 4th Street
New York, NY NY 10012
United States

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