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An Experiment in the Measurement of Social and Economic Ideology


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Principal Investigator(s):

Natalie M. Jackson
Duke University

Sample size: 1050
Field period: 5/2/2010-8/17/2010

 

Abstract:

It has been argued that political ideology consists of more than one dimension when the concept is used to explain policy preferences. These arguments are based on analyses of policy preferences that utilize dimension-reduction techniques to find at least two dimensions of the liberal-conservative scale at work—most frequently social and economic dimensions. However, no one has demonstrated whether individuals think of their ideological identifications in two dimensions. Do respondents' provide different self-placements for economic issues as compared to social issues? This paper uses data from a national survey experiment that directly measures the social and economic dimensions of ideology to determine whether respondents think of their ideological views and report their self-placement differently on social and economic issues; and whether the two self-placement measures of social and economic ideology are more accurate predictors of policy preferences than the single measure. The analysis provides evidence that the experimental measures offer some advantages over the unidimensional measure, particularly for explaining the preferences of individuals who are not strong ideologues.

Hypotheses:

H1: Some respondents will report different ideological self-placements when given the opportunity to place themselves on separate dimensions of social and economic ideology.

H2: Using ideological self-placements for two dimensions of ideology improves the effect of ideological views in predicting policy positions when compared to the single-question ideology measure.

Experimental Manipulation:

The experimental design consists of two separate tracks, to which respondents will be randomly assigned. The first track is the control: respondents are simply asked the standard liberal-conservative ideology question. The second track is used to investigate what happens when respondents are given the opportunity to give a separate response for social ideology and economic ideology. The second track will consist of three questions, the first two worded exactly the same as the standard ideology question, except that one question will ask about ideology on "economic issues" and the other will ask about "social issues." The order of the two ideology questions will be randomized in order to eliminate any question order bias. The third question of the experimental track will ask respondents to place themselves along the liberal-conservative continuum in general, considering their responses to the previous social and economic ideology questions. For all questions, the standard 7-point liberal-conservative response scale will be used.

Key Dependent Variables:

Responses to social and economic ideology questions

Summary of Findings:

Around 30% of respondents will provide different responses to the social and economic ideology questions. Analysis provides evidence that the experimental measures offer some advantages over the unidimensional measure, particularly for explaining the preferences of individuals who are not strong ideologues.

References

"The Dimensional Structure of Symbolic Ideology: An Experiment on Liberal-Conservative Self-Placements." Under review at Political Psychology.

Previous version:
"Measuring the Connection between Ideology and Policy Preferences Using a Multidimensional Conceptualization of Ideology." Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association January 6-8, 2011, New Orleans, LA and at the Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Political Science Association, March 31-April 3, 2011, Chicago, IL. Link to Paper


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