, Volume 23, Issue 2-3, pp 156-188
Date: 22 Jun 2010

More than Ideology: Conservative–Liberal Identity and Receptivity to Political Cues

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Abstract

To many commentators and social scientists, Americans’ stances on political issues are to an important extent driven by an underlying conservative–liberal ideological dimension. Self-identification as conservative vs. liberal is regarded as a marker of this dimension. However, past research has not thoroughly distinguished between ideological identity (a self-categorization) and ideology (an integrated value system). This research evaluates the thesis that conservative–liberal identity functions as a readiness to adopt beliefs and attitudes about newly politicized issues that one is told are consistent with the socially prescribed meaning of conservatism–liberalism. In Study 1, conservative–liberal identity, measured in 2000, had an independent prospective effect on support for invading Iraq in 2002 and support for the Iraq war in 2004, controlling for substantive ideology, party identity, and demographics. In Study 2, conservative- and liberal-identifiers adopted stances on farm subsidy policy based on randomly varied cues indicating which ideological group supports which stance. This cue-based influence was mediated by adoption of attitude-supportive beliefs. Discussion addresses the joint impact of political discourse and identity-based social influence on the organization of political attitudes.