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Beyond Identity Politics: Moral Psychology and the 2008 Democratic Primary


Corresponding concerning this article should be addressed to Ravi Iyer, Department of Psychology, University of Southern California, SGM 501, 3620 South McClintock Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061. [e-mail:].


The two leading candidates for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, had very similar policy positions and yet demonstrated appeal to disparate populations. Much has been written in the press about demographic differences between supporters of these candidates, but little is known about these groups’ psychological profiles. We used standard personality and moral psychology scales to predict differential favorability ratings toward these candidates, while controlling for age, gender, education, and political orientation. Higher scores on group-based morality, primary psychopathy, and moral relativism predicted relative favorability toward Clinton. Higher scores on individual-based morality, empathy, and global concern for others predicted relative favorability toward Obama. The authors discuss how voters’ personalities and moral concerns may interact with media portrayals of the candidates—consistent with recent congruency models of political preference—especially in cases where policy differences are small.