Sunday, August 22, 2010

Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology

by Ravi Iyer, Spassena Koleva, Jesse Graham, Peter H. Ditto and Jonathan Haidt

August 20, 2010

Libertarians are an increasingly vocal ideological group in U.S. politics, yet they are understudied compared to liberals and conservatives. Much of what is known about libertarians is based on the writing of libertarian intellectuals and political leaders, rather than surveying libertarians in the general population. Across three studies, 15 measures, and a large web-based sample (N = 152,239), we sought to understand the morality of selfdescribed libertarians. Based on an intuitionist view of moral judgment, we focused on the underlying affective and cognitive dispositions that accompany this unique worldview. We found that, compared to liberals and conservatives, libertarians show 1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle and correspondingly weaker endorsement of other moral principles, 2) a relatively cerebral as opposed to emotional intellectual style, and 3) lower interdependence and social relatedness. Our findings add to a growing recognition of the role of psychological predispositions in the organization of political attitudes.