Politics & core moral values

Do you know your core moral beliefs? According to the Moral Foundations Theory of Haidt & Graham there are at least five of them, and they can be measured.

These core values determine whether you are fundamentally liberal (left-wing or Democrat) or conservative (right-wing or Republican). You can even take a test to score your values and find out where you sit on the political spectrum.

The five core beliefs are Caring, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Purity. Everyone seems to believe strongly in Caring and Fairness, but conservatives also believe strongly in Loyalty, Authority and Purity.

For example, many liberals support legalizing gay marriage (to be fair and compassionate), whereas many conservatives are reluctant to change the nature of marriage and the family, seeing these as basic building blocks of society.

The test is at http://www.yourmorals.org and you need to register then click on Explore your Morals / Moral Foundations Questionnaire. You should understand that there isn’t a right or wrong result – the test simply measures your outlook and may help you to understand why you vote the way you do.

Here are my results:


My results are green; liberals are blue and conservatives are red.

According to the theory, I’m a classic liberal, valuing Caring and Fairness ahead of Loyalty, Authority and Purity.

However I’m not a liberal at all. I’m actually a libertarian. Libertarians are awkward. We don’t fit into surveys, seemingly on principle. We seem to share the core values of Democrats / Socialist / Labour, but we’re just as likely to vote Republican / Conservative. Why’s that? Libertarians are economically right-wing and socially left-wing. That’s me.

And so I’m going to run a series of blog posts examining each of these 5 core values and finding out what makes us vote the way we do.

In the meantime, you might want to try the test yourself. Post your results below. Or don’t – it’s a free world!

17 responses to “Politics & core moral values

  1. Steve, hope I’m not jumping ahead again, but Haidt has actually provisionally added a sixth foundation, Freedom, which he sees as a major driver for libertarians. (And which obviously is in tension with the Authority foundation.) If I recall correctly, libertarians usually spike on the Freedom foundation with every other foundation being much lower.

    One of the things I find most interesting about this, is how inconceivable many people find it that other people have different foundation preferences than they do. It’s one of the reasons that people so often end up arguing past each other on moral questions.

    • Oh, forgot to mention my scores (I actually took this three years ago, so it took me a bit to remember my password)
      Harm 4.0
      Fairness 3.5
      Loyalty 3.0
      Authority 2.3
      Purity 1.2

      Except for the loyalty foundation, I track liberals, which fits.

    • Yes, I am aware of the Freedom value, but I haven’t found a test for measuring that parameter.

  2. Ah, my fellow Libertarian… my results are as follows: Harm 3.2, Fairness 3.7, Loyalty 3.7, Authority 2.5, and (last and least) Purity 1.5.
    Thanks for sharing the site. It was fun.

  3. I listened to Bill Moyers talk with Haidt during the 2012 presidential campaign. It was a fascinating discussion. I read more about the moral foundations and ended up doing the survey of questions from their site. I wrote about that on my blog.

    I look forward to seeing your insights about it here. It is very important information that explains a lot about the current split and conflict we have in many parts of our society.

  4. Very interesting!
    Harm 3.3
    Fairness 2.8
    Loyalty 1.8
    Authority 1.3
    Purity 0.0 (Did I break something or am I just a complete heathen???) 😉

    • Purity zero? I think you should probably seek professional help 🙂

      • Possibly! I suspect I know why I ended up with that score. It probably had a lot to do with my reaction to the questions that use the word “disgusting.” I thought way to long about the definition of disgusting…and if there was a universal acceptance of what is disgusting…and if someone should refrain from doing something just because I (or anyone else) finds it disgusting. Essentially, I think I just way over-thought things and ended up with some weird answers. 😉

  5. In high school a friend of mine suggested that all of the basic principles on which he would build his life were already in place, now he just had only to tease out what they were, which was not always easy or obvious. Seemed true then, still seems true. It’s a lifetime of work bring to discover that which we already know. But that’s part of the fun of living.

    • Yes, I’m sure that these things go deep – right back to early childhood and are perhaps even there at birth. But of course a lot can happen between birth and adulthood, and I do believe that we can continue to change and grow throughout our lives.

  6. No conservatives yet? Don’t be shy! Post your results!

  7. Where do the boko haram fit?

    • Good question. Either they are all psychopaths, or they have deluded themselves into believing that “the end justifies the means.” I have written about this on the blog several times before. Lots of people throughout history have deluded themselves in the same way. It’s a common human illness.

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