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The Forum

A Journal of Applied Research in Contemporary Politics

Ed. by Shafer, Byron / Disalvo, Daniel

4 Issues per year


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Political Ideology in American Politics: One, Two, or None?

Edward G. Carmines1 / Michael J. Ensley2 / Michael W. Wagner3

1Indiana University

2Kent State University - Kent Campus

3University of Wisconsin-Madison

Citation Information: The Forum. Volume 10, Issue 3, ISSN (Online) 1540-8884, DOI: 10.1515/1540-8884.1526, October 2012

Publication History

Published Online:
2012-10-31

Abstract

Are Americans ideological, and if so, what are the foundations of their ideology? According to Converse’s seminal view, whatever the case in other western democracies and despite its centrality to traditional versions of textbook democracy, the American public is distinctly non-ideological. Our objective is to compare the standard and by far most widely used measure of political ideology—a measure that presumes ideology is one-dimensional—to a more recent measure that allows for a multi-dimensional conception and measurement. This measure demonstrates that while American political elites compete across a single dimension of conflict, the American people organize their policy attitudes around two distinct dimensions, one economic and one social. After explaining how we derived the measure and how it can be used to develop five separate ideological groups, we show how these groups differ politically and why it is not possible to map their preferences onto a one-dimensional measure of ideology.

Keywords: ideology; public opinion; political parties; polarization; measurement

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