Date of Award

Fall 2020

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Brent Simpson


Conflict between Democrats and Republicans is a central component of the contemporary American political system. Negative feelings and discrimination based on political orientation are at an all-time high, leading otherwise similar Americans to deeply distrust one another. Social identity theory provides a framework for not only understanding how this distrust between partisans persists, but how it may be negated. This study builds on recent work on moral judgments and trust games to create situations to increase trust across party lines. Using an online-experimental design, this study investigates the effects of two types of moral judgments on trust building: 1) moral judgments characterized by consensus, where agreement is expected for most Americans (e.g. cheating is bad), and 2) moral judgments characterized by dissensus, where there is a large amount of disagreement across party lines (e.g. abortion rights). This experiment uses a 2 (political group: same or different) x 4 (moral stance: pro-life, pro-choice, universal, or control) design, which allows me to explore how the effects of moral disagreement differ for ingroup members versus outgroup members. Results from this study will be presented and future directions will be discussed for improving political discourse and generalizing interpersonal trust to a group-level.


© 2020, Jered Abernathy

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