To study the composition of political cultures, it is necessary to classify citizens according to a theoretical typology of political subcultures. Different methods of classification have been used for confronting this challenge, but the choice of method is rarely discussed in any detail because most studies apply a method without considering implications or possible alternatives. This is unfortunate because the choice of method has important consequences for the ensuing results. With this article, we aim to determine the implications of different methods for classification and hereby call attention to the importance of this choice for comparative research on political culture. We compare three commonly used methods of classification: critical thresholds, factor analysis and cluster analysis. These methods are used for classifying respondents from the 2008 European Social Survey according to a typology of political subcultures. Based on empirical analyses, we conclude that: (a) the choice of method of classification affects the outcome of the analysis, (b) cluster analysis and factor analysis may result in classifications that do not adequately reflect the theoretical typology, and (c) cluster analysis and factor analysis provide classifications that differ depending on analytical level. While the results do not show that either method is inherently superior, they clearly demonstrate that the choice of method should be recognized as a critical part of the research process.
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The Civic Culture was originally published in 1963. The page numbers refer to the 1965 paperback version.
Stealth citizens do not necessarily trust the existing authorities, but their ideal representative system is one where the political actors are trustworthy and their involvement is therefore unnecessary. This description has some commonalities with monitorial (Schudson 1996; Hooghe and Dejaeghere 2007) or stand-by citizens (Amnå and Ekman 2014). However, since these descriptions also rely on behavioural attributes in addition to attitudinal ones (Hooghe and Dejaeghere 2007, p. 260; Amnå and Ekman 2014, pp. 272–274) they are not applicable for the current purposes where the focus is on attitudinal attributes.
We do not claim to provide an empirical assessment of the theoretical framework in Civic Culture, or indeed any other work on political culture. We merely assess the merits of the methods available for empirically operationalizing such empirical frameworks.
The concordance coefficient indicates the number of cases that are classified in the same way by two or more methods divided by the total number of cases. When all cases are classified in the same way, the concordance coefficient is 1. If the coefficient is 0, all cases are classified differently by the methods.
We use Denmark to illustrate the differences since Denmark when analyzing the European sample has mean values that deviate considerably from the European mean values on both dimensions. This example therefore shows the differences between the pooled and national samples in the most distinctive way.
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Denk, T., Christensen, H.S. How to classify political cultures? A comparison of three methods of classification. Qual Quant 50, 177–191 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-014-0143-3
- Methods of classification
- Political culture
- Cluster analysis
- Factor analysis
- Critical thresholds
- Comparative survey analysis