Values and Political Ideology: Rokeach's Two-Value Model in a Proportional Representation Environment

By Wilson, Marc Stewart | New Zealand Journal of Psychology, November 2004 | Go to article overview

Values and Political Ideology: Rokeach's Two-Value Model in a Proportional Representation Environment


Wilson, Marc Stewart, New Zealand Journal of Psychology


The study presented here provides support for Rokeach's (1973) contention that followers of different political viewpoints may be differentiated by their relative endorsements of the values of Freedom and Equality. A previous test of the hypothesis in New Zealand (in 1975) proved inconclusive and this was argued as reflecting the homogeneous two-party political environment of the time. Since 1996, however, New Zealand has implemented a proportional representation electoral system that allows a degree of political heterogeneity absent from earlier tests of the hypothesis. The present paper describes a content analysis of parliamentary speeches by representatives of five ideologically distinct political parties. Contrary to previous local findings (but consistent with overseas research) the parties were classifiable in their differential endorsement of the target values. The classification related systematically to the parties' positions in the current political climate, with left-wing parties endorsing Equality over Freedom, while the reverse was increasingly true of parties of the right.

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The most frequently cited definition of what constitutes a human value (psychologically defined) is offered by Rokeach (1973) as an "enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence" (p.5). Rokeach argued that, considered together, values form values systems where a value system is "an enduring organisation of beliefs concerning preferable modes of conduct or end-states of existence along a continuum of importance" (1973, p.5). Thus the importance of different values should co-vary with the importance of others in the value system. Human values are strongly prescriptive in nature and form the core around which other less enduring beliefs are organised. As such they are important in a range of other processes. For example, the formation of specific attitudes is theoretically predicated upon more general values. Rokeach's conceptualisation of values, and the conceptualisation of a finite set of values as the foundation for an infinite set of attitudes continues to be a focus of research (e.g., Allen, Ng & Wilson, 2002; Allen, Wilson, Ng & Dunne, 2000; Barnea & Schwartz, 1998; Braithwaite, 1997, 1998; Schwartz, 1992; Thannhauser & Caird, 1990).

If attitudes are predicated upon value systems then by extension political attitudes are also predicated upon values. Indeed, Rokeach (1973) contended that the traditional left-right (liberal-conservative) continuum was not sufficient to differentiate (or make comparisons) between all the varieties of political ideologies active in the political environment. In its place, Rokeach proposed that the minimum number of independent (theoretically uncorrelated) dimensions necessary to describe different ideologies was two, and outlined a programme of research intended to show that proponents of different political philosophies differ in their relative support for the two values of Freedom and Equality. For example, adherents of liberal democratic or socialist doctrine should endorse both values equally highly while the reverse is true of Nazist or fascist sympathisers who should endorse neither. Differential endorsement of the two values is illustrated by Republican or right-wing supporters valuing Freedom over Equality and communists favouring Equality over Freedom.

In this respect, Rokeach's (1973) emphasis on Freedom and Equality has proven durable. These two values continue to be implicated in a range of social and political issues, and have been shown to reflect basic attitudinal dimensions. For example, based on his cross-cultural values analysis, Hofstede (1980) suggested that power-distance (Equality versus hierarchy) and individualism-collectivism (Freedom versus interdependence) represent two primary psychological dimensions. …

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