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http://ssrn.com/abstract=834264
 
 

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The 'Wildavsky Heuristic': The Cultural Orientation of Mass Political Opinion


John Gastil


Pennsylvania State University

Donald Braman


George Washington University - Law School; Cultural Cognition Project

Dan M. Kahan


Yale University - Law School; Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics

Paul Slovic


Decision Research; University of Oregon - Department of Psychology

October 15, 2005

Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 107

Abstract:     
In a provocative 1987 article, Aaron Wildavsky asserted that culture operates as the fundamental orienting force in the generation of mass public opinion. The meanings and interpersonal associations that inhere in discrete ways of life, he argued, shape the heuristic processes by which politically unsophisticated individuals, in particular, choose what policies and candidates to support. We systematize Wildavsky's theory and integrate it with existing accounts of mass opinion formation. We also present the results of an original national survey (N = 1843), which found that the cultural orientations featured in Wildavsky's writings accounted for policy-related attitudes on gun control, environment, capital punishment, and gay marriage, even at low levels of political sophistication and after controlling for demographics, left-right ideology, and partisanship. By contrast, much of the predictive power of demographics, left-right ideology, and partisanship on policy attitudes dissipated after taking into account cultural orientations.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: Heuristics, gun control, capital punishment, politics

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Date posted: October 28, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Gastil, John and Braman, Donald and Kahan, Dan M. and Slovic, Paul, The 'Wildavsky Heuristic': The Cultural Orientation of Mass Political Opinion (October 15, 2005). Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 107. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=834264 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.834264

Contact Information

John Gastil
Pennsylvania State University ( email )
University Park, PA 16802
United States
Donald Braman
George Washington University - Law School ( email )
2000 H Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20052
United States
Cultural Cognition Project ( email )
2000 H St NW
2000 H Street
Washington, DC 20052 20052
United States
202-491-8843 (Phone)
202 491-8843 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/braman
Dan M. Kahan (Contact Author)
Yale University - Law School ( email )
P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.culturalcognition.net/kahan
Harvard University - Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics ( email )
124 Mount Auburn Street
Suite 520N
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Paul Slovic
Decision Research ( email )
1201 Oak Street, Suite 200
Eugene, OR 97401
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
541-485-2403 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.decisionresearch.org
University of Oregon - Department of Psychology ( email )
Eugene, OR 97403
United States
541-485-2400 (Phone)
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