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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter June 28, 2019

The Evolution of Morality Policy Debate: Moralization and Demoralization

Rebecca J. Kreitzer EMAIL logo , Kellen A. Kane EMAIL logo and Christopher Z. Mooney EMAIL logo
From the journal The Forum

Abstract

Scholars of morality policy have built an extensive literature surrounding these issues, which often are associated with unusual political behavior. Early studies aimed at explaining this behavior but avoided defining a “morality policy” explicitly, typically by focusing on issues that appeared obviously to pertain to morality, like abortion and LGBTQ+ rights. Drawing on the existing morality policy scholarship and classic theories of public policy, we argue that no public policy is inherently moral. Rather, policies may be “moralized” or “demoralized” over time, not due to any intrinsic characteristic, but because the prominent policy frames in their debate have changed. Public opinion and its proxies, along with certain exogenous shocks, may be important in determining when a morality frame will be more prevalent. Because the distinctiveness of morality policy lies in the discourse surrounding it, scholars should examine the behavior and attitudes of relevant advocates in these debates, rather than relying on aggregate data and making assumptions about intrinsic policy characteristics.

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