Does Morality Policy Exist? Testing a Basic Assumption

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Abstract

Does morality policy exist? A growing body of scholarship has examined the ways that the politics of so-called “morality policy” (e.g., abortion regulation, same-sex marriage policy, and capital punishment) differ from the politics of other types of policy. In this literature, morality policies are assumed to be distinctive in that they generate conflicts of basic moral values, do not lend themselves to compromise, and are widely salient and technically simple. Using an email survey of morality policy scholars and a telephone survey of just over seven hundred Illinois residents in 2005, we test this assumption. We find that citizen responses about these policies vary along three of these four characteristics, just as morality policy scholars predicted. Thus, morality policies do exist, as assumed by these scholars. Our analysis also suggests some potentially fruitful avenues for future research on morality policy and other policy typologies.

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