Ideological Labels in America

Abstract

This paper extends Ellis and Stimson’s (Ideology in America. New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 2012) study of the operational-symbolic paradox using issue-level measures of ideological incongruence based on respondent positions and symbolic labels for these positions across 14 issues. Like Ellis and Stimson, we find that substantial numbers—over 30 %—of Americans experience conflicted conservatism. Our issue-level data reveal, furthermore, that conflicted conservatism is most common on the issues of education and welfare spending. In addition, we also find that 20 % of Americans exhibit conflicted liberalism. We then replicate Ellis and Stimson’s finding that conflicted conservatism is associated with low sophistication and religiosity, but also find that it is associated with being socialized in a post-1960s generation and using Fox News as a main news source. Finally, we show the important role played by identities, with both conflicted conservatism and conflicted liberalism linked with partisan and ideological identities, and conflicted liberalism additionally associated with ethnic identities.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The mismatch variables can be described using binomial distributions, being counts of the number of “successes” out of the 14 “trials” we asked each respondent to conduct. Logistic-binomial regression models are thus used. In the same way that the binomial distribution is a more general version of the Bernoulli distribution that is used to model dichotomous variables, the logistic-binomial regression model is a generalization of the much more well-known logit. See Gelman and Hill (2007), pp. 116–118 for more details.

  2. 2.

    Note that because we expect some of the explanatory variables to have differently signed effects across the two directions, such as holding a liberal or conservative identity, it does not make sense to combine the two forms of mismatch—in other words, to have a single model predicting issue-label mismatches regardless of direction. If such a model is specified (see Table S2 in the supplementary materials), such effects get cancelled out.

  3. 3.

    Note that because Asian Americans, as a group, have experienced less poverty than African- or Hispanic-Americans, we do not hypothesize that Asian ethnic identifiers will show increased conservative position-liberal label ideological incongruence; nor is there any evidence of such an effect.

  4. 4.

    We checked whether religious affiliation—Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, etc.—has an effect on ideological incongruence. It does not, regardless of the direction of mismatch. This analysis is available from the authors upon request.

  5. 5.

    Note that we also ran both issue levels models using only mismatches on economic and cultural issues. The effects are similar within direction and across issue domain, with perhaps one exception: Republicans show more conflicted conservatism on economic but not cultural issues. Results are available in the supplementary materials (Tables S3 and S4).

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Correspondence to Christopher Claassen.

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Claassen, C., Tucker, P. & Smith, S.S. Ideological Labels in America. Polit Behav 37, 253–278 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-014-9272-6

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Keywords

  • Operational ideology
  • Symbolic ideology
  • Identity