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Ideology in Mass Publics: Effects of Ideological Identification on Political Behavior

  • Author(s): de Abreu Maia, Lucas
  • Advisor(s): Fowler, James H.;
  • Hill, Seth J.
  • et al.

Public opinion research has traditionally viewed ideological self-identification as largely subsidiary to party identification, with little predictive power of its own. I use experiments, social media posts, data from 10 different survey panels, and the ANES cross-sectional time series to challenge this argument. I firstly establish that the vast majority of the American public identifies with an ideological label. I then present evidence that, within panel respondents, ideological identification is extremely stable over time. I also show that, according to traditional measures of affective polarization, ideological self-placement is currently as polarized as partisanship. When it comes to attitudes, I integrate survey responses on 33 different issues to show that ideological labels ``liberal,'' ``moderate,'' and ``conservative'' are predictive of different positions along the ideological spectrum. Finally, I present evidence that ideological identification is significantly associated with presidential, Congressional, and gubernatorial vote choice. Taken together, these results indicate that the traditional place of ideology in the American public needs to be reassessed. Contrary to most current theories, ideological labels seem to be closely held social identities, with strong affective, attitudinal, and behavioral effects.

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