Ditto identifies five broad, universal moral categories, or “pillars,” that predict political thought and behavior:
These concerns receive different weighting between self-identified liberals and conservatives in surveys, with liberals valuing harm reduction and fairness highly and generally overlooking the other three, and conservatives giving equal weight to all five (on paper at least).
Ditto does step outside the binary in the last half of the segment, noting that his studies turned up a significant number of people who identified as libertarians. He takes a particular interest in this category. Libertarians, says Ditto, don’t rank any moral value highly, marking their worldview as “pragmatic” and strikingly amoral. They appear to be intensely self-focused and lacking in empathy.
Other strains—from democratic socialism to anarchism to fascism—that define American politics today, go unmentioned, as if they didn’t exist, though they are arguably as influential as libertarianism in the strange flowerings of the American left and right, and inarguably as deserving of study.
The idea that one’s morals define one’s politics doesn’t seem particularly novel, but the research of psychologists like Haidt and Ditto offers new ways to think about morality in public life. It also raises pertinent questions about the gulf between what people claim to value and what they actually, consistently, support.