Perceptions of social dangers, moral foundations, and political orientation

Florian van Leeuwen, Justin H. Park*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


What underlies people's tendency to be politically liberal or conservative? Conservatism has been explained as being a consequence of fear- and anxiety-related variables and, recently, of emphasizing moral foundations pertaining to group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity (which are referred to as the "binding" foundations, as opposed to the "individualizing" foundations pertaining to justice and care). Aiming to integrate these two explanations of political orientation, we conducted a study in which 140 students in the Netherlands completed the belief in a dangerous world scale, the moral foundations questionnaire, and explicit and implicit measures of political orientation. Consistent with previous research, both higher perceptions of social dangers and greater emphases on the binding moral foundations (relative to the individualizing foundations) were associated with explicitly and implicitly measured conservatism. More importantly, there was evidence that a "conservative pattern" of moral attitudes mediates the relationship between perceived social dangers and political conservatism. By integrating conceptually distinct explanations, the present findings take initial steps toward a more complete picture of what underlies individual differences in political orientation. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-173
Number of pages5
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Belief in a dangerous world
  • Conservatism
  • Liberalism
  • Moral foundations
  • Morality
  • Political orientation
  • Threat


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