I just finished “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” a very accessible mainstream (non-academic) book by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt.
Takeaways: Our rational minds are to our emotional/instinctual selves like riders on an elephant. When the elephant leans even slightly to one side, the riders look in that direction and start coming up with rational arguments about why it’s a good idea to go that way.
Liberals tend to care very much about what Haight calls the “Care/Harm” moral framework, and also “Liberty/Oppression” and “Fairness/Cheating.” They are less interested in “Loyalty/Betrayal,” “Authority/Subversion” and “Sanctity/Degradation.” (There are of course exceptions.)
Haight says Conservatives care about equally for all 6 moral areas: “Care/Harm,” “Liberty/Oppression,” “Fairness/Cheating,” “Loyalty/Betrayal,” “Authority/Subversion” and “Sanctity/Degradation.” (He’s describing what his research showed.)
According to Haight (who identifies himself as a liberal atheist), the most liberal have trouble empathizing with conservative values, which they tend to see as a devaluation of “Care/Harm” rather than an equally valid expression of different flavors of human morality.
Here’s a TED talk in which Haidt covers some of these themes (he gives five moral flavors for “the first draft of the moral mind”).