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Moral Beliefs about Violent Political Conflict (MoViCon)

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Researchers often make assumptions about moral beliefs among citizens, for example when assuming that there is a low tolerance for political violence in peaceful societies and vice versa in war torn countries. Image: Gayatri Malhotra/Unsplash

About the project

What do ordinary citizens think about political violence and does it matter? The study of violent political conflict – e.g., civil war, terrorism, violent protest or international wars – has explored the different causes of political violence, with a focus on the rational motivations or emotive responses of elites and populations. But, the systematic empirical study of political violence has largely ignored the moral beliefs about political violence among citizens. Examples of such moral beliefs are “it is wrong to beat up a political opponent”, or “it is always right to take up arms in defense of one’s country”.  Researchers often make assumptions about such moral beliefs, for example when assuming that there is a low tolerance for political violence in peaceful societies and vice versa in war torn countries.

This project wants to study when and under what conditions citizens condone or condemn political violence, and on what moral grounds. It also wants to explore how these moral beliefs among citizens affect actual political violence in different societies. We will make three innovations to address these questions. First, we will develop a concept of “moral beliefs about political violence”, and a new survey-experimental template for measuring this concept. Second, we will develop and test a theory of how moral beliefs about political violence are formed and evolve in societies.

Third, we will conduct surveys in different societies to explore how these moral beliefs vary within and between countries. Finally, the project will investigate whether within- and between-country variation in moral beliefs about political violence predict actual occurrences of political violence.

Detailed project description. 

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Image from The Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone following the riots in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Photo: Adrian Celaya/Unsplash

Financing

The project is financed by the Norwegian Research Council.

Published Mar. 3, 2021 3:36 PM - Last modified Sep. 2, 2021 1:15 PM