Our Moral Tastebuds and Why the Working-Class Votes for the Political Right

In sum, the left has a tendency to place caring for the weak, sick and vulnerable above all other moral concerns. It is admirable and necessary that some political party stands up for victims of injustice, racism or bad luck. But in focusing so much on the needy, the left often fails to address – and sometimes violates – other moral needs, hopes and concerns. When working-class people vote conservative, as most do in the US, they are not voting against their self-interest; they are voting for their moral interest. They are voting for the party that serves to them a more satisfying moral cuisine.

Why do working-class people vote for the political right, even if the right’s political agenda appears to go against the working-class’s self-interest? Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at NYU, tackles this question and says it has a lot to do with our moral tastebuds. Since the working-class and political right share similar moral tastebuds, voters aren’t exactly voting against their own self-interest. So, what are your moral tastebuds? Haidt worked with the folks at YourMorals.org to identify six moral values: care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Their research looked at how much you would have to pay someone to do something that went against a certain moral value, i.e., how much money would someone have to give you to get you to kick an innocent animal in the head? 

I took the quiz. I actually wouldn’t take any amount of money for a lot of the things that were asked. Although, I apparently have something against obeying authority, which is surprising to me, because I generally follow all of the rules:

How’d you do?

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9 Comments / Post A Comment

It is a fascinating test, but it has some quirks. What if money just isn’t that important to you? I’d get more joy from continuing to experience health, sleep, hearing, social interactions, family gatherings, etc., then I would from whatever I would buy with $1,000,000. (I probably wouldn’t buy anything; I’d just save it, neurotically, and then I’d get little joy at all.)

@Ester Bloom@facebook Yeah I suspect the relationship to the economic security of the respondent is nonlinear. I was just looking over my bank accounts prior to taking it, and I kept thinking “Hmm, well, $100,000 would really sort a lot of things out in my life right now.” Day after payday, a lot of those might’ve been “Nevers”

I must be an oddity, because my left-wing beliefs are entirely rooted in the concept of fairness, not protecting the weak. I’ve never been able to get over the idea that where you are born and who your parents are decides what kinds of chances you get in life.

ETA: Not that I don’t think protecting the weak is important (I think it’s a clear measure of how civilized a society is), but it’s not the root of my political philosophy.

sony_b (#225)

@stuffisthings Me too. I think it’s actually pretty selfish of me to vote leftie – I’m doing A-OK right now. But I’m female, 40, fat, and work in tech. Those things lumped together mean that I will get laid off at some point in the next few years, and that I may not be getting hired as fast as I used to. I want a robust safety net for ME. Everybody else can enjoy it while I wait my turn.

AnnieNilsson (#406)

It’s also kind of skewed because since it lists all these amounts of potential money I’m like, “well if you’re gonna paaaay me, why would I do it for free?” And then I think I’m actually gonna earn that hundred dollars for “slapping my father in the face with permission for a comedy skit.”

Um, but I guess that says more about me and my actual need for money right now than the accuracy of the test?

Anyone wanna pay me to slap them in a funny way?

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@AnnieNilsson Yeah I definitely experienced that when I was taking the test. Also a lot of “why in the world would anyone pay me any amount of money to do this?”

MuffyStJohn (#280)

It seemed to me that the test was set up to label those with less money as less moral. I’m assuming someone a multi-millionaire would be less swayed by being offered a million dollars to renounce his citizenship than someone earning minimum wage. (Aside: The idea of measuring loyalty as having steadfast allegiance to your state is pretty fucked up.) I wish that they showed the moral breakdown by income/assets as well as by political affiliation.

I’m also not entirely sure where eating a cardboard box fit into any of this.

kellyography (#250)

This quiz has definitely left me a little quizzical. At least I know I’m still upping the p0nx by my apparent willingness to violate the Authority Foundation for very little money.

Mrs. Beeton (#320)

I really struggled with the “poking a random child with a pin” question. I eventually went with “Never, for any amount of money.” But man. $100,000 was pretty tempting for a minute.

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