The Nature of Political Ideology in the Contemporary Electorate

Posted: 22 Dec 2009

See all articles by Shawn Treier

Shawn Treier

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

D. Sunshine Hillygus

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Abstract

Given the increasingly polarized nature of American politics, renewed attention has been focused on the ideological nature of the mass public. Using Bayesian Item Response Theory (IRT), we examine the contemporary contours of policy attitudes as they relate to ideological identity and we consider the implications for the way scholars conceptualize, measure, and use political ideology in empirical research. Although political rhetoric today is clearly organized by a single ideological dimension, we find that the belief systems of the mass public remain multidimensional, with many in the electorate holding liberal preferences on one dimension and conservative preferences on another. These cross-pressured individuals tend to self-identify as moderate (or say “Don't Know”) in response to the standard liberal-conservative scale, thereby jeopardizing the validity of this commonly used measure. Our analysis further shows that failing to account for the multidimensional nature of ideological preferences can produce inaccurate predictions about the voting behavior of the American public.

Suggested Citation

Treier, Shawn and Hillygus, D. Sunshine, The Nature of Political Ideology in the Contemporary Electorate. Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 73, Issue 4, pp. 679-703, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1525301 or http://dx.doi.org/nfp067

Shawn Treier (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities ( email )

420 Delaware St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

D. Sunshine Hillygus

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
961
PlumX Metrics