Mature democracies have a core set of values with wide appeal that define and justify political agendas. Underlying their use is the assumption that people think along a left–right political continuum and that values that are favored by conservatives are necessarily at odds with values favored by liberals. The value balance model shows this to be a misrepresentation. Some people have value priorities that are predominantly security oriented, leading them to support conservative parties and ideology. Some are predominantly harmony oriented, supporting left of center parties and ideologies. Most people, however, have balanced value orientations (dualists if both are strongly held and relativists if both are weakly held). Typically they occupy the middle ground on the left–right continuum. Yet they have distinctive ways of engaging with political institutions. Dualists take positions that show compassion and responsibility to others while drawing a line at risking exploitation. For the left and right, dualists may be fence sitters, but potentially they are bridge builders, engaging constructively with democratic contestation. In contrast, relativists are wary of endorsing value positions, look for contextual detail, and display low commitment to making the democracy work.
Braithwaite, Valerie, 2009, 'The value balance model and democratic governance', Psychological Inquiry, 20, 2, 87-97