Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Dimensions of Ideology. A Review of Social-Psychological Literature12

Academic journal article European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities

Dimensions of Ideology. A Review of Social-Psychological Literature12

Article excerpt

1. Introduction. Dimensions of Ideology

Social sciences often conceptualize ideology as a relatively organized set of attitudes towards various social and political objects that could be derived from more general values and world-views. However, disagreements about the exact shapes of this structure, the level and source of coherence in such attitudes, are widespread. Converse (1964) argued that the general public's political attitudes are unstable, disorganized, inconsistent, and hence non-ideological (see also Zaller, 1992). In political science, dominant view is that the most important ideological dimension is the left-right distinction (e.g., Fuchs and Klingemann, 1990; Huber and Inglehart, 1995). Other authors see authoritarianism versus libertarianism as the main overarching ideological dimension characterizing the contemporary (Western) political culture (Flanagan and Lee, 2003).

Social psychologists, however, contend not only that individual-level political attitudes exhibit a considerable degree of coherence and structure (if adequately measured) but also that they are generally organized along familiar ideological lines (e.g., Kerlinger, 1984; Middendorp, 1992, 1991, 1978; Shikano and Pappi, 2004; Jost et al., 2009). Scholars, however, disagree on how this organization is best conceived. The views range from, for example, one-dimensional models where all specific attitudes are seen as reflecting a single basic underlying attitudinal dimension (e.g., conservatism dimension, Wilson, 1973a), to multi-dimensional models where related attitudes are grouped together in a number of specific factors, which are themselves unrelated (e.g., nine-dimensional model of Sidanius and Ekehammar, 1980).

This literature review is concerned with the research on the dimensionality of ideology, or the structure of social attitudes. According to Gabel and Anderson, "Fundamental to this approach is the assumption that policy positions are structured by underlying ideological dimensions that account for covariation in these positions. These ideological dimensions represent the structure of political discourse, representing a linguistic shorthand for political communication and competition" (2002, p.896).

Psychological literature often refers to social attitudes, but references to ideologies or political attitudes are also common. Attitudes are regarded as social when they refer to objects which have "shared general societal relevance in economic, political, religious, educational, ethnic, and other social areas" (Kerlinger, Middendorp, and Amon, 1976, p.267). When adjective 'political' is included, that often means that items referring to specifically political objects are involved (e.g., Durrheim and Foster, 1995).

Social psychology provided a significant contribution to understanding the structure of socio- political attitudes. Research on this topic started nearly eight decades ago, inspired by the research on the structure of intellectual abilities. Since then, a large body of literature has been generated. Yet, despite the long tradition, this literature has not resulted in proportional cumulative scientific development. One reason for this state of the affairs is perhaps the lack of a systematic review of the existing research. The aim of this paper is to help in this regard by listing the relevant studies, examining the applied research methodology, and critically summarizing the main results.

The review is divided into six parts: 1) brief presentation of the basic paradigm of the research field, 2) early studies, 3) Two-dimensional model of Hans Eysenck, 4) Wilson's theory of Conservatism as unidimensional and bipolar dimension, 5) Kerlinger's Dualistic theory, and 6) the 'Independent group'. Discussion and recommendations for the future research finalize the paper.

Basic Paradigm

The basic paradigm in this field states that social attitudes are interrelated and hierarchically organized. …

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