Measuring Ideology among the Mass Public: Policy Positions versus Group Power
46 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2022
Date Written: June 6, 2022
The extent to which members of the American public have organized political beliefs shapes a wide range of views on American politics. Alongside many other scholars, we conceptualize ideology as a system of beliefs about politics. Yet we argue that to measure this belief system through policy positions collapses information about elite-level politics with preferences. Instead, we measure ideology through beliefs about group power. To do so, we introduce survey instruments labeled ``power thermometers’’ (analogous to feeling thermometers). Across multiple survey waves, many respondents exhibit stable opinions about the power of various social groups. Furthermore, respondents exhibit roughly equivalent response stability regardless of political information. These findings contrast with the view that Americans are ``innocent of ideology'' and challenge a necessary link between ideology and political information. This opens the door to future research on the content and development of mass-level ideology, which prior research would appear to foreclose.
Keywords: ideology, political information, group politics, panel survey
JEL Classification: C23, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation