Sunday, February 5, 2017

Political Ideology: Difference Between Ideological Self-identification and Attitudes on Issues

I asked the students in my Texas state and local government class at ACC to complete a questionnaire on political issues, labeling it an Ideology Test. All twenty-two students completed the questionnaire. The first question asked students to indicate their ideology: liberal, moderate, or conservative. Here are the results:

A majority of the students consider themselves moderates. The next largest category, conservative, was chosen by nearly one-fifth of the students. The same percentage (18 percent) chose liberal.

The students were then placed on a 7-point scale based on their attitudes on six issues, three of which dealt with a choice between equality and individualism and the other three dealt with a choice between individualism and social order, which involves traditional social values. Each student's choices on the six issues was coded: (1) On the first three issues, the choices was coded according to whether the student chose equality or individualism. If a student chose equality on at least two of the three issues, the student was coded as favoring equality over individualism. If, on the other hand, the student chose individualism on at least two of the three issues, the student was coded as favoring individualism. (2) On the second set of three issues, the choices were coded on whether the student chose individualism or social order. Like the first three issues, the coding was based on the same criterion--at least two of three choices were the same. Here are the results:

According to this measure of ideology, one-half of the students are liberal, choosing equality over individualism but individualism over social order. Populists, those students who chose equality over individualism and social order over individualism, were 9 percent. There were 5 percent who were libertarian--people who choose individualism over either social order or equality. Only 4 percent were conservative, choosing individualism over equality but social order over individualism. Almost one-third of the students have no ideology; that is, they have no consistent attitudes concerning the scope and purpose of government.

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