Ideology Justifies Morality: Political Beliefs Predict Moral Foundations

Peter K. Hatemi, Charles Crabtree, Kevin B. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) is employed as a causal explanation of ideology that posits political attitudes are products of moral intuitions. Prior theoretical models, however, suggest the opposite causal path, that is, that moral judgments are driven by political beliefs. In both instances, however, extant research has assumed rather than explicitly tested for causality. So do moral intuitions drive political beliefs or do political beliefs drive moral intuitions? We empirically address this question using data from two panel studies and one nationally representative study, and find consistent evidence supporting the hypothesis that ideology predicts moral intuitions. The findings have significant implications for MFT as a theory of ideology, and also about the consequences of political beliefs for shaping how individuals rationalize what is right and what is wrong.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)788-806
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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