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One way to uncover the persistent role of religion across generations is to look past traditional understandings of religious belief and denominational belonging and examine the presence of bedrock principles that could influence political beliefs in families. The Moral Foundations framework was developed for this purpose – to describe human behavior and attitudes in the moral realm without relying upon country, culture, or time specific labels. In an original and rare three-generation dataset, college students, their parents, and their grandparents were asked about political attitudes and preferences for the Moral Foundations of Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. The Foundations are not equally shared across generations as preferences for each Foundation increase with the age of the cohorts in this sample, with especially large differences on Authority and Purity. A follow-up survey reveals that Moral Foundations may not be stable across even short periods of time. These findings suggest that the political appeals that may work on older Americans may be less effective on the younger generations. If individuals indeed make moral decisions based on these types of bedrock principles, understanding which of these principles or Foundations drive particular age groups can help us better understand shifts in public opinion.
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