Auditing Section Research Summaries Space

A Database of Auditing Research - Building Bridges with Practice

This is a public Custom Hive  public

research summary

    Does “Political Bias” in the DIT or DIT-2 Threaten Val...
    research summary posted May 9, 2012 by The Auditing Section, last edited May 25, 2012, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.04 Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions 
    Does “Political Bias” in the DIT or DIT-2 Threaten Validity in Studies of CPAs?
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study are important for understanding the implications of previous studies which have used the Defining Issues Test (DIT) or its later version the DIT-2 to measure the ethical reasoning and moral development of CPAs. The authors note that determining whether there is a true correlation between political orientation and the DIT P score is an intriguing debate that remains unsettled. The authors suggest that political belief should not be ignored and should be considered by researchers and included as a control variable in future studies to prevent misleading results.


    Bailey, C. D., T. J. Phillips and S. B. Scofield. 2005. Does “Political Bias” in the DIT or DIT-2 Threaten Validity in Studies of CPAs? Behavioral Research in Accounting 17 (1): 23-42.

    DIT, DIT-2, political bias, ethical reasoning, cognitive-developmental perspective
    Purpose of the Study:

    The DIT and the DIT-2 are tests commonly used by researchers to measure individual cognitive moral development or ethical reasoning ability. Individuals taking the DIT are presented with a series of ethical dilemmas and asked to choose the ethical argument which they view to be the most compelling. Individuals are then assigned a P score, which represents their level of ethical reasoning – a higher score indicating a higher level of reasoning. However, the DIT and the DIT-2 have been criticized as being seriously influenced by political belief. The purpose of this study is to examine whether political position explains a significant amount of variation in individuals’ P scores.

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors collected responses from 741 CPAs taking the short-form DIT in 1995 and 261 taking the DIT-2 in 2001. Participants were also asked to respond to a conservatism scale which measured their political beliefs as either politically “liberal,” “conservative” or “other.”

    • The authors find that political orientation is in fact significantly correlated with the DIT P score and somewhat with the score generated by the DIT-2.
    • However, the authors note that the strength of the relationship between political orientation and P scores is encouragingly small and may mean that the correlation is not a cause for concern for previous research. They do not claim to settle the debate, however, and encourage use of political orientation as a control variable in the future.
    Independence & Ethics
    Moral Development and Individual Ethics Decisions
    home button