A Study on Political Ethics

Aileen Aizenshtat ‘21
Jacob Herman ‘21
EE Contributors

Editor’s Note: This submission was excerpted from a larger research project completed in Mr. Darrow’s AP Statistics class.

The search into a possible relationship between politics and morals through a statistics study surveying a random sample of Trumbull High School teenagers was interesting, to say the least. Through this, a final conclusion was reached: With differences in party affiliation, there are several identifiable distinctions in the core moral values of an individual.

Such beliefs and distinctions were found to have been heavily influenced by familial ties and values — in other words, it was the political beliefs of the subject’s family that came to be similar to the person’s own leanings. This makes it plausible that when one identified themselves to be conservative or liberal in this study, they could have been influenced by family opinions to do so, as their own ideals were not parallel to those held by the views of the political body they identified with. However, the findings of this study with political ideology still remain significant even with this confounding.

The most obvious divide between these political sects was within a puzzle that is not at all unheard of in the philosophical world of ethics. The dilemma itself is simple: a person close to you is dying of a disease that only your neighbor has the cure to. However, they ask for an outrageous price in exchange for the cure, one that you have no way of paying. The options are to either (a) steal the cure immediately, (b) only steal the cure after asking to pay for half of the cure’s price or, (c) refuse to break the law through theft, despite the repercussions to your friend’s life.

It was found that conservative-identifying individuals were shown to have a greater likelihood to obey the law — in this case, refusing to steal the cure — whereas liberal were more prone to preserving the life that would be lost without it. Conservatives answered exactly three times the amount of liberals that opted to not steal the cure for their friend’s life. From the liberal perspective, the prioritization of life was deemed to be more important that what the law had dictated. To put simply, if it was a life that needed to be saved from an unfortunate end— the law could be disregarded almost completely. The ethicality, the humanity of what one had to offer to those around them, was a better motive than the law. For conservatives, it was the justice and order a legislation put in place that held a higher authority. 

In the end, there is no doubt that a person’s political affiliation may dictate the course of ethics a person chooses to implement in their life. It may not completely overrule the moral compass altogether, however the influence is there. The results show an association is most definitely present — at a high school level, nonetheless! 

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