Cultural Theory and National Security: The Role of Cultural Orientations in Americans’ Preferences for Security and Nuclear Deterrence
Hank C. Jenkins-Smith
University of Oklahoma - Department of Political Science
Kerry G. Herron
University of Oklahoma - Center for Applied Social Research
Joseph T. Ripberger
University of Oklahoma
April 19, 2011
Taking positions on national security issues, ranging from nuclear war to terrorism, necessarily engages values. Perceived security threats and the preferred means for dealing with them are in part derived from people’s preferences for how basic social relationships should be structured and maintained. This paper focuses on the ways in which fundamental world-views, following Mary Douglas’ and Aaron Wildavsky’s conception of cultural theory (CT), shape perceived risks in the international arena, including preferred responses to terrorist threats and preferences for US nuclear deterrence capabilities. Of particular interest is how CT measures perform when compared to more traditional political variables, such as political ideology or partisanship. The data for this analysis are taken from a set of nationwide US public surveys (telephone and Internet based) with common sets of questions taken in 1995, 2008, and 2009. Overall the dataset includes over 6,167 individual interviews. The data permit analysis of the ways in which measures of CT orientations (hierarchy, egalitarianism, and individualism), political ideology and partisanship shape perceptions of perceived risks (and benefits) and an array of policy preferences in the international arena. We find that the CT measures perform quite well in comparison to more traditional partisan and ideological measures. Of particular interest is our finding that, depending on the nature of the issue, individualists align sometimes with hierarchs and at other time with egalitarians. CT thus provides a substantially more nuanced depiction of the coalitions that can be expected to support and oppose important security policy initiatives.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: cultural theory, political ideology, nuclear deterrence, terrorism, belief systems, public opinionworking papers series
Date posted: April 20, 2011
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