Human Values and Sophistication Interaction Theory

Abstract

Political sophistication systematically affects the structure, crystallization, and use of political values, but it remains unclear if sophistication manifests similar effects on human values. This paper integrates Shalom Schwartz (Adv Exp Soc Psychol 25:1–65, 1992, J Soc Issues 50:19–45, 1994) theory of human values with sophistication interaction theory to examine the degree to which education and political interest condition the structure, crystallization, and use of an important subset of values. We theorize that human values are (1) identically structured and equally crystallized in sophistication-stratified populations and (2) that relationships between human values and ideological judgments grow stronger at higher levels of sophistication. Using data from a nationally representative sample of 10,765 Americans, we compare extremely sophisticated individuals (e.g., people with doctorates) and extremely unsophisticated individuals (e.g., high school dropouts) to demonstrate that neither education nor political interest affect value structure and crystallization. Sophistication has real, if somewhat limited, effects on value usage.

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Fig. 1

Source 2015 author survey

Fig. 2

Source 2015 author survey

Notes

  1. 1.

    Because we do not take up the remaining Schwartz values, we cannot speak their structure, crystallization, and use.

  2. 2.

    The low education group includes respondents with a high school degree or less. The moderate education group includes those with some college. The high education group includes those who graduated from a four-year college. The egalitarian items are v085162–v085167. The family value items are v085139-v085142.

  3. 3.

    There is some uncertainty on this. For idiosyncratic reasons, some of this work does not include all 10 value types (e.g., Cieciuch et al. 2013; Knafo and Spinath 2011). Also, some studies find modest deviations in value structure between adult and adolescent/pre-adolescent samples (e.g., Bilsky et al. 2013).

  4. 4.

    Data and code to replicate the analyses can be found at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/O8MLXX. This project was funded by a grant to the senior author from the Russell Sage Foundation (award number 83-15-28). GfK relies on a random sampling technique—address based sampling—to recruit respondents into its online panel. This stands in contrast to other online samples in which people self-select into the panel and are matched to population benchmarks via post-hoc weights.

  5. 5.

    We measured symbolic ideology using a branched administration format. The GfK ideology question does not include the wording “or haven’t you thought much about this” in the root question, which stands in contrast to the standard NES measure of ideological id. Respondents could select “unsure” instead of one of the seven self-placement options in the root question. Individuals who chose “unsure” received a follow-up asking if they had to choose, would they identify as liberal or conservative (those who selected one of these were scored as “slightly liberal” or “slightly conservative” on the seven-point scale). When we report that no more than 7% of respondents failed to answer the ideological id question across the sub-groups, we are referring specifically to the second stage of this question. Note that 12% of our sample did not provide an answer to the first stage of this question.

  6. 6.

    We do not reject the null hypothesis of equal factor loadings, but it is close. Two of 18 univariate constraints are p < .05 and another two are p < .06.

  7. 7.

    Given that there is no meaningful substantive difference in scale reliabilities across the samples, we do not employ formal tests to determine if these differences are statistically significant.

  8. 8.

    We control for gender, marital status, race/ethnicity, income, age, and party identification. We measure age in years. Gender, married, African American, and Hispanic are dummy variables. Income is a scale. We use dummy variables for Democrat and Republican. Pure independents serve as the reference category. All variables, with the exception of age, are keyed to range from zero to one.

  9. 9.

    The EIV coefficients always exceed the OLS coefficients in magnitude because the measurement error corrections boost their size.

  10. 10.

    There are some sophistication differences across samples, but these are not always in the expected direction. For example, in the EIV education model (see Table S3 in the online materials), the conservation effect is significantly larger in the HS/HS+ group (0.69) than the doctorate group (0.52).

  11. 11.

    In the supplemental materials online, we demonstrate that our results are robust in a number of ways. First, we acknowledge that our sophistication coding scheme is unusual. For example, we place respondents without a high school degree in one category and respondents with high school degrees/some post-high school education into a separate category. A more conventional tack places people with up to a high school degree in one category and respondents with some college in a second category. To ensure our findings are not a function of unorthodox classification, we replicated the analyses using conventional bins. We found qualitatively similar results (see Tables S9-S11 for the MGCFA estimates and Tables S12–S19 for the OLS and EIV models).

    Second, we remind readers that to maintain consistency with our MGCFA analyses, we estimated separate OLS and EIV models using the same groups. We used formal Wald tests to determine if the universalism and conservation coefficients differed significantly across the groups (the notes in the figures and supplemental tables report these results). To check the robustness of our findings, we re-estimated the OLS models using value x sophistication interaction terms. Since prior studies show that politically sophisticated respondents rely more on party id to inform their political choices than the unsophisticated (Berinsky 2009; Zaller 1992), we also included party id x sophistication terms. In lieu of the binned measures of education, we deployed an 18-point measure of the years of formal schooling. In place of our binned measure of political interest, we used an unbinned, eight-point measure. We then reset both moderators onto a 0-1 scale. The estimates appear in Tables S20–S21. These results largely match what we report in the paper. To begin, we find that sophistication does not systematically strengthen the relationship between values and symbolic ideology. Only one of the four value x sophistication interaction terms is significant: the conservation x education coefficient = 0.20 (t = 2.02, see Table S20). This estimate means that the impact of conservation on symbolic ideology is significantly higher for people with doctorates compared to people with no formal education. However, the impact of conservation on symbolic ideology among people with no formal education is significant (b = 0.22, t = 2.85). There are only 20 respondents in our sample of 10,765 respondents with no formal education, so this result overstates the substantive impact of education. Second, sophistication always strengthens the impact universalism and conservation have on operational ideology, which matches what we reported in the text. Third, six of the eight party id x sophistication terms are significant in the expected direction, which justifies our decision to include them in the model.

  12. 12.

    The “equal opportunities” item in the universalism battery and the “traditional values and beliefs” item in the conservation battery are very similar to items that appear in the standard NES measures of egalitarianism and traditional family values. As a final robustness check, we re-estimated the OLS models after dropping each of these items from the respective human values scales. The estimates in the online tables (S23-S26) reveal the same pattern of results reported in the text.

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Goren, P., Smith, B. & Motta, M. Human Values and Sophistication Interaction Theory. Polit Behav (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-020-09611-8

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Keywords

  • Human values
  • Political sophistication
  • Symbolic and operational ideology
  • Measurement invariance