MORAL MAPS

 

            The recent research focus on political values brings attention to the role of ideologies and beliefs in the formation of political preferences and political dynamics in Switzerland. Space remains, however, a blind spot in this literature. Few ventures engage in describing political orientation in spatial terms. None, however, concludes on a geography of values nor attempts to explore the geographical resonance of the values that underlie ideologies. In a recent study using Moral Foundation data in the US, van Leeuwen and colleagues find no association between urbanization and moral foundations. The study presents several limitations, including using the US census index of urbanization, which mostly relies on population size. 

            This research investigates spatial layout of moral foundations, value-like emotions that shape moral and political preferences and associated actions. To do so, I analyze the moral consistency of the arguments presented to voters by political parties in preparation of votes over Facultative referenda and Popular initiatives, which I then associate with communal vote outcomes to discuss the geographical correspondences. This investigation of territory-bound morality confirms one hypothesis I derive from the political urbanity thesis: communal vote outcomes coherently portray a series of moral geographies that translate the ideological coherence between moral foundations and political tendencies. I do not fully confirm, however, the second hypothesis that urban places rely mostly on Harm and Fairness foundations while remote places rely mostly on In-group, Authority and Purity foundations. At this current stage, the data from the first set of analyses comforts such association, but I am unable to consistently interpret results of the second set of analysis in this direction. In order to do so, I would need to better explore the nature of the relationship between moral foundations lexicometric values and the content of the arguments presented to the population. Nevertheless, I also show that those values do associate with vote outcomes for several communes, and that response to moral foundation may help explain populations’ divergence from vote recommendations. I also make an intriguing observation by plotting the PCA results from communes’ moral foundations lexicometric scores. I note the resulting positioning of communes on the PCA vector space closely resembles the “political landscape” of Hermann and Leuthold. If I find this association to be true—which would require further analysis—it would connect the two researchers’ work to Moral Foundations Theory, thus providing validation to both fields of research.

            MORAL MAPS provides a robust method to reinforce interdisciplinary work between political geography and political psychology. While political scientists often engage in content analysis, I find too little work in geography attempt to invest in those methods. A large field in political sciences focuses on communication and rhetoric. Such approach ties in well with new theoretical and methodological developments now allowing to investigate large amount of textual material. In this research, I engage in such venture and translate into French the Moral Foundations Dictionary, originally set up in English by Graham and colleagues. The applications of such dictionaries are manifold and permit greater exchange between disciplines. As such, political sciences in Switzerland and elsewhere finds many factors to explain vote outcomes during participatory votes. None, however, looks at the very content of the votes as a possible source of political choice, nor control for much of its implication. In this chapter, I instate both geography and political sciences benefit from a closer look to the word.

 
Shin Alexandre Koseki