Measuring Morality

These days, “morality” is a household word. One need only turn on the television or radio to hear debates about moral politics, moral issues, or the shifting moral landscape. But what exactly is morality? How do people differ in what they view as moral? What explains those differences? The Measuring Morality project was designed to help answer these questions and create a Rosetta Stone for researchers.

The first phase of the Measuring Morality project involved fielding a nationally-representative survey of adults in the United States aimed at understanding the interrelations among moral constructs, and at exploring moral differences in the U.S. population. Survey items were chosen in consultation with an international group scholars from sociology, psychology, and linguistics, and represent a wide range of theoretical traditions. The survey includes both morality scales (typically shortened for inclusion on the survey, and including several recently developed scales), and measures of constructs theoretically associated with morality. These include:

  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Identities
  • Santa Clara Religious Faith Questionnaire
  • Rational/Experiential Inventory (REI)
  • Moral relativism
  • Ethics Position Questionnaire (EPQ)
  • Moral Politics Scale (aka Lakoff Scale)
  • Dispositional Positive Emotions Scales (DPES)
  • The Heinz and the Drug scenario from the Defining Issues Test (DIT)
  • Moralization of Everyday Life Scale (MELS)

  • Moralization of Politics Scale (MOPS)
  • Moral Foundations Sacredness Scale (MFSS)
  • Moral Identity
  • Close Relationship Questionnaire (CRQ)
  • Integrity Scale
  • Schwartz’s Portrait Values Questionnaire (PVQ)
  • Triune Ethics Theory (TET) Identities
  • Moral Dilemma–Trolley
  • Ethical Values Assessment (EVA)

A second phase, select items from the Measuring Morality survey were included in the fourth wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion, a nationally-representative study of the religious lives of teenagers and young adults. This allows us to trace how experiences in the formative adolescent years shape the moral perspectives developed by American young adults.

The research project is directed by Stephen Vaisey, Professor of Sociology at Duke University. Collaborators include:

Measuring Morality is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Citations to the scales used in the survey are available in Word format or as a PDF. (These citations will be updated as needed.)

Technical details on survey data collection and a codebook can be found here (PDF) and here (PDF).

How to get the data
The dataset is available in Stata, SPSS, R, Mplus, and SAS formats. To download the files, you must complete the registration form below. Once you have submitted the form, you will receive via the email address provided a pass code to access the download page.

If you downloaded the data prior to October 23, 2013, upload the latest data, which includes a religious attendance variable. This variable was omitted from previous versions.

The only requirement for access to the data is that you agree send a copy of any publications or circulated working papers to the PI (Stephen Vaisey, stephen.vaisey@duke.edu) for listing on the project publications page.


Measuring Morality download form