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The Importance of Ideology varies across Sociocultural Contexts


Although ideology is widely studied, less is known about how it varies across sociocultural contexts. Ideology is an organizing structure for political attitudes in that positions on a core set of political attitudes have been found to be aligned along a liberal-conservative ideological dimension. Some personality-based approaches to political psychology suggest that, because ideology arises from low-level psychological features, the political attitudinal structure of ideology is likely to be consistent across sociocultural contexts. However, the cultural psychology perspective suggests that both low-level psychological features and their higher-level political attitudinal manifestations may differ across cultures. The five studies in this dissertation examined this tension using eight datasets from the General Social Survey, applying linear and logistic regression and lasso regression, and the machine learning techniques of random forest classification and regression and support vector machine classification. Across these studies, the importance of ideology as an organizing structure varied across sociocultural contexts, especially across race, education, and income lines. The associations between ideological self-placement and measures of political attitudes were weaker for those with lower incomes and with no college education, and the associations were almost entirely absent for Black Americans. In addition, this dissertation examined other ways that political concerns are prioritized, beyond ideology.

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