The Connection Between Moral Positions and Moral Arguments Drives Opinion Change

43 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2018

See all articles by Pontus Strimling

Pontus Strimling

The Institute for Future Studies; Stockholm University - Center for the Study of Cultural Evolution

Irina Vartanova

The Institute for Future Studies

Fredrik Jansson

Linkoping University - Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS)

Kimmo Eriksson

Stockholm University - Center for the Study of Cultural Evolution; Mälardalen University

Date Written: May 28, 2018

Abstract

On moral issues, it is well-known that liberals and conservatives often tend to take opposing positions. However, the connection between ideology and positions is not absolute, as evidenced by public opinion moving dramatically on some issues (e.g., gay rights) while not moving on other issues (e.g., abortion). To understand this phenomenon, we here characterize positions on 74 moral issues by analyzing which moral foundations people draw on to argue for a given position. We then present a mathematical model of how opinions in a population change on an issue depending on its characteristics. For any given issue, the model predicts both which should be the liberal position and how public opinion should shift over time. In an analysis of over 40 years of data from the General Social Survey, we find the model predictions to be strongly supported. One finding is that liberals are generally winning the culture war.

Keywords: Public Opinion, Moral Opinion, Cultural Evolution, Change, Gal-Tan, Moral Foundations, Mathematical Modelling

Suggested Citation

Strimling, Pontus and Vartanova, Irina and Jansson, Fredrik and Eriksson, Kimmo, The Connection Between Moral Positions and Moral Arguments Drives Opinion Change (May 28, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3186550 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3186550

Pontus Strimling (Contact Author)

The Institute for Future Studies ( email )

Holländargatan 13
Stockholm, 11136
Sweden

Stockholm University - Center for the Study of Cultural Evolution ( email )

Stockholm
Sweden

Irina Vartanova

The Institute for Future Studies ( email )

Holländargatan 13
Stockholm, 11136
Sweden

Fredrik Jansson

Linkoping University - Institute for Analytical Sociology (IAS) ( email )

Norrköping, 601 74
Sweden

Kimmo Eriksson

Stockholm University - Center for the Study of Cultural Evolution ( email )

Stockholm, SE-106 91
Sweden

Mälardalen University ( email )

S-721 23 Vasteras
Sweden

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