How Norms Shape the Nature and Origins of Mass Belief Systems
55 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2020
Date Written: February 15, 2020
Are Americans’ policy preferences constrained by ideological belief systems? If so, what does this imply? We bring clarity to these long-debated questions by addressing three vital concerns: First, constraint is typically operationalized based on researchers’ understanding of “what goes with what,” but how valid are these assumptions? Using an incentivized coordination game, we find substantial variability in ideological norm clarity across issues. Second, the extant literature equates lack of constraint with ignorance, but how many seemingly “ideologically innocent” voters simply choose to flout ideological norms? When we measure political preferences and knowledge of ideological norms separately, it becomes clear that ignorance and pragmatism are typically conflated. Third, does constraint facilitate accountability, or does it indicate adherence to ideological norms? Using a survey experiment, we find that priming norms increases adherence. This suggests that the most ideologically constrained are the strongest norm followers and perhaps not best-suited to ensure democratic accountability.
Keywords: norms, ideology, survey, experiment
JEL Classification: D91, D72, C90
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation