Moral foundations of political discourse: Comparative analysis of the speech records of the US congress and the Japanese diet

Hiroki Takikawa, Takuto Sakamoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There has been growing interest in moral-emotional phenomena in psychology, sociology and other social sciences. One of the main issues in this field of study centers on the relationship between public/political discussion and moral-emotional framework. The first major attempt was done by J. Haidt(2012), a leading advocate of 'moral psychology'. He argues that there are five distinct moral foundations in our moral framework (“care/harm”, “fairness/reciprocity”, “ingroup/loyalty”, “authority/respect” and “purity/sanctity”) and that the emphasis on each moral foundation differs depending on people's political ideology. According to Haidt, liberals endorse the first two foundations while conservatives evenly draw on all of the five foundations. His findings were originally based on psychological experiments and questionnaire surveys, but in recent years researchers including Haidt and his colleagues themselves (Graham et al. 2009) have been studying “moral behavior 'in the wild'”(Dehghani et al. 2016) by utilizing the computational linguistic analysis of large-scale corpuses created from social media data and other sources. A similar development can be seen in the closely related field of sentiment analysis of political discussion. Here, the use of “big data” (Wojcik et al. 2015) has led to another intriguing finding: conservatives display happiness (positive emotion) less than liberals, which directly opposes the conventional wisdom in the field. However, these arguments, which have mostly been advanced in the social context of the United States, lack a comparative perspective. This might cause serious problems because, as sociologists argue, moral-emotional phenomena are deeply embedded in social and institutional environments. An argument based on just a single country's case involves a great risk of making erroneous generalizations. As the first step towards overcoming these limitations, we compare the emotional and moral structures of political and public discussion observed in the U.S. and Japan by employing extensive text data that cover these two countries. More specifically, we conduct sentiment analysis and moral foundation analysis of floor debate in the U.S. Congress and the Japanese Diet over a long period of time. In so doing, we reexamine the moral foundation theory proposed by Haidt as well as the somewhat controversial relationship between emotions and political ideology suggested by Wojcik et al. In drawing comparisons between U.S. and Japan, we pay particular attention to institutional differences between the two legislative bodies (e.g., the extent of party restrictions on votes; the degree of party confrontation, etc.). We investigate whether and how these institutional differences might affect the moral-emotional structure of political discussion in different social settings.

Original languageEnglish
JournalUnknown Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Apr 23


  • Comparative analysis
  • Moral foundation theory
  • Moral psychology
  • Natural language processing
  • Sentiment analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Moral foundations of political discourse: Comparative analysis of the speech records of the US congress and the Japanese diet'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this