Assessing the Validity of Different Approaches to Operationalizing Cultural Theory in Survey Research

35 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2016

See all articles by Brendon Swedlow

Brendon Swedlow

Northern Illinois University - Political Science

Joseph T. Ripberger

University of Oklahoma

Li-Yin Liu

Northern Illinois University - Political Science

Carol L Silva

University of Oklahoma - Main - Department of Political Science

Hank C. Jenkins-Smith

University of Oklahoma - Department of Political Science

Date Written: March 24, 2016

Abstract

Cultural Theory (CT) is a social and political theory developed by Émile Durkheim, Mary Douglas, Aaron Wildavsky, and others that has attracted significant attention across the social sciences. This paper explains what CT is and compares the validity of various approaches to operationalizing CT in survey research. Approaches assessed for their face and content validity include (1) the worldview measures originally developed by Karl Dake and Wildavsky, (2) the relational ranking and rating measures recently created by Hank Jenkins-Smith and colleagues, (3) the relational “cultural cognition” measures of Dan Kahan and colleagues, and (4) the brand new relational grid-group measures developed by Joe Ripberger, Brendon Swedlow, and colleagues. The convergent validity of the last three relational approaches is assessed by the extent to which these measures converge on the original Dake and Wildavsky worldview measures, while their predictive validity is assessed by how well they predict people’s concerns in nine policy areas. We find that all of these approaches lack face and content validity because they at best only operationalize a component of CT. But the worldview measures are particularly lacking because worldviews do not correspond to any component of CT. By contrast, the new relational measures exhibit very good face and content validity with respect to the relational patterns hypothesized by CT. The new relational rating measures developed by Jenkins-Smith and colleagues also exhibit very good convergent and predictive validity, but the comparable results for the new grid-group relational measures developed by Ripberger, Swedlow, and others are at best mixed, yet not without promise if developed further. [The convergent and predictive validity of the relational measures of Kahan and colleagues remains to be assessed.] Based on these findings, we suggest appropriate uses for these measures and directions for further research to improve the conceptualization and operationalization of CT in survey research.

Keywords: Cultural Theory, Cultural Cognition Theory, Grid Group, values, worldviews, survey research, public opinion, validity, operationalization, measurement

Suggested Citation

Swedlow, Brendon and Ripberger, Joseph T. and Liu, Li-Yin and Silva, Carol L and Jenkins-Smith, Hank C., Assessing the Validity of Different Approaches to Operationalizing Cultural Theory in Survey Research (March 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2860961 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2860961

Brendon Swedlow (Contact Author)

Northern Illinois University - Political Science ( email )

DeKalb, IL 60115
United States
(815)753.7061 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://polisci.niu.edu/faculty/cv/swedlow.html

Joseph T. Ripberger

University of Oklahoma ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

Li-Yin Liu

Northern Illinois University - Political Science ( email )

United States

Carol L Silva

University of Oklahoma - Main - Department of Political Science ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

Hank C. Jenkins-Smith

University of Oklahoma - Department of Political Science ( email )

307 W Brooks
Norman, OK 73019
United States

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