Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Voters’ Partisan Responses to Politicians’ Immoral Behavior

Walter, Annemarie S.; Redlawsk, David P.

Voters’ Partisan Responses to Politicians’ Immoral Behavior Thumbnail


David P. Redlawsk



Politicians’ moral behaviors affect how voters evaluate them. But existing empirical research on the effects of politicians’ violations of moral standards pays little attention to the heterogeneous moral foundations of voters in assessing responses to violations. It also pays little attention to the ways partisan preferences shape responses. We examine voters’ heterogeneous evaluative and emotional responses to presumably immoral behaviors by politicians. We make use of moral foundation theory’s argument that people vary in the extent to which they endorse, value, and use the five universally available moral intuitions: care, fairness, loyalty, authority and sanctity. We report on a 5 × 3 between‐subjects experiment asking a random sample of 2,026 U.S. respondents to respond to politicians’ violations of different moral foundations. We randomly vary which of the five foundations is violated and the partisanship of the actor (Republic/Democrat/Nonpartisan). Results suggest that partisanship rather than moral foundations drives most of U.S. voters’ responses to moral foundations violations by politicians. These foundations seem malleable when partisan actors are involved. While Democrats in this sample show stronger negative emotional response to moral violations than Republicans, partisans of both parties express significantly greater negativity when a politician of the other party violates a moral foundation.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 3, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 27, 2019
Publication Date Oct 1, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 4, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 5, 2019
Journal Political Psychology
Print ISSN 0162-895X
Electronic ISSN 1467-9221
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Issue 5
Pages 1075-1097
Keywords Political Science and International Relations; Philosophy; Experimental and Cognitive Psychology; Sociology and Political Science; Clinical Psychology; Social Psychology
Public URL
Publisher URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations