Past research has found evidence for an association between psychopathy and political orientation. We suggest this relationship could be explained by individual differences in psychopathic traits and location along the conservative-liberal continuum corresponds to similar variability in moral competence or reliance on certain moral intuitions. To explore these possibilities, two direct replication studies were conducted in which measures of psychopathy, political orientation, moral competency, and moral intuitions were administered to two samples of Amazon Mechanical Turk participants (N = 240 in Study 1, N = 224 in Study 2). After aggregating the data, multiple regression analyses revealed Cold-heartedness, but not Fearless Dominance or Self-Centered Impulsivity, was positively associated with political conservatism. This association was largely attributable to differences in prioritizing individuating moral intuitions, as opposed to binding moral intuitions. Neither psychopathic traits nor political orientation were appreciably associated with moral competency.
American politics have become increasingly polarized (Brewer, 2005; Duca & Saving, 2016; McCarty, Poole, & Rosenthal, 2006; Poole & Rosenthal, 2007) and researchers have attributed this division to increasingly partisan media sources (Duca & Saving, 2016; Prior, 2013). While increased partisanship may strengthen party affiliation and attachment (Lupu, 2013) and clarify voter preferences (Lupu, 2015), it is also associated with adverse consequences, such as legislative gridlock, economic decline, and mass political disengagement (Brown, Touchton, & Whitney, 2011; Frye, 2002). The increasing divide between conservatives and liberals was especially evident during the 2016 Presidential Election Campaign, in which both primary presidential candidates were characterized by their counterparts as immoral, callous, narcissistic, and psychopathic. The serious and persisting nature of these allegations is important to consider. Although partisans are quick to characterize their opposing party as having psychopathic traits, little research has examined whether there is an association between psychopathy and political orientation; more specifically, we found only one study examining this association. Specifically, using the Psychopathic Personality Inventory-Revised (PPI-R) and a continuous bipolar scale (1 = very liberal, 5 = very conservative), Lilienfeld, Latzman, Watts, Smith, and Dutton (2014) measured psychopathy and political orientation in a sample of 3388 community participants. Their results revealed small positive correlations between three psychopathic traits (Fearless Dominance, SelfCentered Egoism, and Cold-heartedness) and political conservatism (rs = 0.16, 0.19, and 0.20, respectively).