The Moral Diversity of Polarization: Examining Intra-Party Philosophical Differences in a Polarized Political System

Midwest Political Science Conference, April 2015

21 Pages Posted: 30 May 2015 Last revised: 2 Jun 2015

Date Written: April 15, 2015

Abstract

The polarization between American political parties is often conceptualized as unidimensional. Indeed, the liberal-conservative spectrum has strong empirical support. Since the American party system is federal in nature and the United States is culturally diverse, it is likely, however, that the observation and measurement of polarization hides both inter and intra-party variance. Recent work by social psychologists suggests that there are multiple moral foundations that capture most human judgments about morality. Social scientists have studied this question from the micro-level, but so far there are few studies of how these moral foundations might be altered by a public setting. In an exploratory study, I analyze eight state party platforms (four from each party) and find that party philosophy is articulated (grounded) in easily recognizable moral claims. I also find considerable intra-party diversity as state parties draw on different moral claims in constructing their public platforms. Importantly, the platforms indicate that parties build consensus for position by invoking multiple foundations. Since moral beliefs are both innate and acquired, studying how parties and politicians both reflect and produce the moral frames citizens use in their political evaluations can greatly illuminate the role of morality in partisan polarization.

Keywords: polarization, moral foundations theory, political psychology, ideology

Suggested Citation

Coffey, Daniel J., The Moral Diversity of Polarization: Examining Intra-Party Philosophical Differences in a Polarized Political System (April 15, 2015). Midwest Political Science Conference, April 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2611816 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2611816

Daniel J. Coffey (Contact Author)

University of Akron ( email )

302 Buchtel Common
Akron, OH 44325-1904
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.uakron.edu/colleges/artsci/depts/polisci/faculty/coffey.php

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