Political Science Publications

Document Type


Publication Date







The Forum

First Page


URL with Digital Object Identifier


Last Page



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.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Find in your library



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.