The Moral Foundations of ThinkProgress, Alternet, Daily Kos, & the NY Times

November 2nd, 2011 by Ravi Iyer

Over the past couple years, Jon Haidt has had press articles from various liberal leaning press organizations, including these articles from ThinkProgress, Alternet, Daily Kos, and the New York Times.

One of the great things about doing internet research is that web servers automatically collect information that makes it very easy to do cross-sample validation.  This information can also be used to compare the people who visited us from these articles. Which group is the most liberal and how do they compare on their moral foundations scores?

First, I thought do a simple comparison of these groups.


There are fewer people from the Daily Kos to be able to be sure about conclusions (hence the larger error bars), but it looks like (unsurprisingly) all of these groups are liberal, compared to people who find us via search engines, who tend to be only slightly liberal.  Their moral foundations scores show a similarly more liberal pattern with higher Harm/Fairness scores and lower Ingroup/Authority/Purity scores.  Daily Kos readers are the most liberal followed by ThinkProgress & Alternet and then NY Times readers and finally people who found yourmorals.org via a search engine.

To me, the most interesting results are where groups appear to be equally liberal (ThinkProgress & Alternet), but have differences.  ThinkProgress visitors appear esepcially low on Purity scores, while Alternet visitors appear significantly higher on Harm/Fairness scores.

An even stronger test of the kinds people who use these websites is to control for how liberal (slight, moderate, or extreme) individuals at these sites report themselves to be and examine individuals within each group of liberals. Those results are below.

This is the graph for people who said they were “very liberal”.

These are the results for people who said they were “liberal”.

These are the results for people who said they were “slightly liberal”.  Interestingly, there weren’t enough slight liberals in the Daily Kos sample to include them in this graph.

The pattern seems fairly robust in that ThinkProgress visitors care less about Purity.  Perhaps they are less religious?  Alternet visitors seem to care more about Harm/Fairness.  Perhaps they are more empathically motivated and ThinkProgress visitors are more rationally oriented.  I don’t know enough about the liberal blogosphere to theorize well about why these differences exist, but I’m hopeful that by sharing these differences, others will be able to enlighten me.  At the very least, I hope readers of these sites will find it interesting.

Would you be interested in seeing how your group compares to others on the moral foundations questionnaire?  Or visitors to your website?  You may have noticed a small “create a group” link on our explore page of yourmorals.org which lets you create a custom URL, whereby each visitor’s graphs will not only let them compare their individual scores to other liberals/conservatives, but also to members of their group, and to compare their group scores to the average liberal/conservative.  Once you create those URLs, you can put them into blog posts, articles, or emails targeting your group.  We are still beta testing the feature, but would welcome anyone who wants to try it out and who perhaps has feedback on how we can improve it.

- Ravi Iyer

Posted in alternet, conservatives, daily kos, liberals, moral foundations, new york times, news commentary, thinkprogress, yourmorals.org3 Comments »

3 Responses to “The Moral Foundations of ThinkProgress, Alternet, Daily Kos, & the NY Times”

  1. I am "liberal," but... says:

    …visit Alternet. You’ll discover it is less “rationally oriented” than just about anywhere else on the Internet.

  2. Nick Aubert says:

    Liberal ThinkProgress reader here. The description of ThinkProgress as more rational and less empathically motivated than, say Alternet or DailyKos sounds about right. ThinkProgress bloggers blog about policy and economic theory. The social objectives are the same, but there’s more of a sense of how to reform the system rather than rebuilding the system.

  3. Ravi Iyer says:

    thanks! It’s good to know that our measure can pick up on these types of differences.

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