Abstract

https://ssrn.com/abstract=2467595
 


 



Is the Left-Right Scale a Valid Measure of Ideology? Individual-Level Variation in Associations with 'Left' and 'Right' and Left-Right Self-Placement


Paul C. Bauer


European University Institute - Department of Political and Social Sciences (SPS)

Pablo Barbera


New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics

Kathrin Ackermann


University of Bern

Aaron Venetz


University of Bern - Institute of Political Science

July 31, 2015

Bauer, P. C., Barberá, P., Ackermann, K., & Venetz, A. (2015). Is the Left-Right Scale a Valid Measure of Ideology?. Political Behavior, 1-31. doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9368-2

Abstract:     
In order to measure ideology, political scientists heavily rely on the so-called left-right scale. Left and right are, however, abstract political concepts and may trigger different associations among respondents. If these associations vary systematically with other variables this may induce bias in the empirical study of ideology. We illustrate this problem using a unique survey that asked respondents open-ended questions regarding the meanings they attribute to the concepts “left” and “right”. We assess and categorize this textual data using topic modeling techniques. Our analysis shows that variation in respondents’ associations is systematically related to their self-placement on the left-right scale and also to variables such as education and respondents’ cultural background (East vs. West Germany). Our findings indicate that the interpersonal comparability of the left-right scale across individuals is impaired. More generally, our study suggests that we need more research on how respondents interpret various abstract concepts that we regularly use in survey questions.

Keywords: Left-right scale, Ideology, Left, Right, Survey measurement, Interpersonal comparability, Measurement equivalence


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Date posted: July 18, 2014 ; Last revised: November 7, 2016

Suggested Citation

Bauer, Paul C. and Barbera, Pablo and Ackermann, Kathrin and Venetz, Aaron, Is the Left-Right Scale a Valid Measure of Ideology? Individual-Level Variation in Associations with 'Left' and 'Right' and Left-Right Self-Placement (July 31, 2015). Bauer, P. C., Barberá, P., Ackermann, K., & Venetz, A. (2015). Is the Left-Right Scale a Valid Measure of Ideology?. Political Behavior, 1-31. doi:10.1007/s11109-016-9368-2. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2467595 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2467595

Contact Information

Paul C. Bauer (Contact Author)
European University Institute - Department of Political and Social Sciences (SPS) ( email )
Via dei Roccettini 9
San Domenico di Fiesole
Florence, 50014
Italy
Pablo Barbera
New York University (NYU) - Wilf Family Department of Politics ( email )
19 W 4th St, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States
Kathrin Ackermann
University of Bern ( email )
Aaron Venetz
University of Bern - Institute of Political Science ( email )
Lerchenweg 36
Bern 9, 3000
Switzerland
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