Political Behavior

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 316-332

First online:

The sources of liberal-conservative thinking: Education and conceptualization

  • William G. JacobyAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, The Ohio State University

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In this study, I examine two sources of liberal-conservative thinking within the American electorate: Education and level of conceptualization. This analysis differs from previous work in at least two important ways. First, I test the impacts of education and conceptualization simultaneously. Second, I focus on the degree to which people actively use the liberal-conservative continuum to organize their perceptions of the parties and candidates. Empirical analysis of data from the 1984 CPS National Election Study confirms that education and conceptualization have roughly equivalent effects on ideological structuring in political perceptions. I discuss the implications of this finding for the study of mass belief systems and information processing within the American public.