Exploring the ethics of political PR professionals using moral foundations theory
This paper offers a multidimensional theoretical scheme to analyze professional ethics in the field of political public relations. We suggest investigating the decisions of these professionals using moral foundations theory because human ethical reasoning is contextual, and the examination of ethics in a one-dimensional manner as previous researchers have done overlooks the complexity of the moral choices that such professionals make. The prospects of the proposed theoretical approach are demonstrated on 16 interviews with post-soviet Russian political PR industry leaders that were conducted from March 2018 to April 2020. Our empirical findings show that Russian political PR specialists employ all moral foundations, however, in their narratives the “care/harm” and “authority/respect” foundations were not mentioned very often. Overall, this paper makes a critical contribution to research on professional ethics in political public relations, and it provides important insight into the specifics of moral reasoning in the Russian political PR industry that is insufficiently described in the current literature.