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Comparing Democrats and Republicans on Intrinsic and Extrinsic Values


Ken Sheldon, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri–Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211. E-mail:


Although claimed differences in values have played a prominent role in recent U.S. politics, the value systems of typical Republicans and Democrats have not been evaluated within a relevant dimensional framework. In 4 studies, party members were compared on extrinsic (money, popularity, image) and intrinsic (intimacy, helping, growth) values. Republicans were consistently higher on extrinsic relative to intrinsic values, a pattern suggested by past research to be personally and socially problematic. In Study 4, Republicans were also lower in a different measure of prosocial values, derived from social-dilemma research. All studies found an interaction such that only nonreligious Republicans were lower than Democrats on the intrinsic value of helping needy others. Implications for contemporary political discourse are discussed.