Moral foundations and political attitudes: The moderating role of political sophistication

Int J Psychol. 2016 Aug;51(4):252-60. doi: 10.1002/ijop.12158. Epub 2015 Feb 26.


Political attitudes can be associated with moral concerns. This research investigated whether people's level of political sophistication moderates this association. Based on the Moral Foundations Theory, this article examined whether political sophistication moderates the extent to which reliance on moral foundations, as categories of moral concerns, predicts judgements about policy positions. With this aim, two studies examined four policy positions shown by previous research to be best predicted by the endorsement of Sanctity, that is, the category of moral concerns focused on the preservation of physical and spiritual purity. The results showed that reliance on Sanctity predicted political sophisticates' judgements, as opposed to those of unsophisticates, on policy positions dealing with equal rights for same-sex and unmarried couples and with euthanasia. Political sophistication also interacted with Fairness endorsement, which includes moral concerns for equal treatment of everybody and reciprocity, in predicting judgements about equal rights for unmarried couples, and interacted with reliance on Authority, which includes moral concerns for obedience and respect for traditional authorities, in predicting opposition to stem cell research. Those findings suggest that, at least for these particular issues, endorsement of moral foundations can be associated with political attitudes more strongly among sophisticates than unsophisticates.

Keywords: Moral foundations; Motivated reasoning; Political attitudes; Political sophistication.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude*
  • Female
  • Group Processes
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals*
  • Politics*
  • Public Policy*
  • Young Adult