No Compromise: Political Consequences of Moralized Attitudes

69 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2013

See all articles by Timothy J. Ryan

Timothy J. Ryan

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill

Date Written: 2013


Extreme preferences do not explain an inability to approve political compromises that would make everyone better off. However, evolutionary, neuroscientific, and cognitive perspectives in psychology find that some attitudes are not only extreme, but moralized - a very different characteristic. Unlike extreme attitudes, moralized attitudes reorient behavior from maximizing gains to adhering to rules. Here, I examine the political implications of this phenomenon. In four studies drawing data from a variety of sources, I measure attitude moralization and examine how it relates to approval of political compromise. I find that moralized attitudes lead citizens to oppose compromises, punish compromising politicians, and even pay a monetary cost to obstruct political opponents' gain. These patterns emerge on social and economic issues alike and have implications for understanding political polarization.

Keywords: compromise, polarization, experiment, moral psychology

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Timothy J., No Compromise: Political Consequences of Moralized Attitudes (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Timothy J. Ryan (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill ( email )

102 Ridge Road
Chapel Hill, NC NC 27514
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics