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Political Sophistication and the Dimensionality of Elite and Mass Attitudes, 1980−2004

Robert N. Lupton, William M. Myers and Judd R. Thornton
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 77, No. 2 (April 2015), pp. 368-380
DOI: 10.1086/679493
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/679493
Page Count: 13
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Political Sophistication and the Dimensionality of Elite and Mass Attitudes, 1980−2004
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Abstract

Among the terms central to the literature on political attitudes have been complexity and constraint, with some scholars asserting that increased complexity—political sophistication—constrains political attitudes to a single ideological dimension while others argue that complexity instead leads to a multidimensional attitude structure. We investigate the role of sophistication in structuring issue attitudes using a unique survey of Democratic and Republican party elites in conjunction with the American National Election Studies (ANES). The two surveys allow us to compare directly the structure of elites’ and mass issue attitudes. We hypothesize that elites’ attitudes are unidimensional and mass attitudes are multidimensional. The difference, we argue, is that political sophistication constrains elites’ attitudes to a single ideological dimension, whereas much of the mass public is not fully capable of making the necessary connections between ideology and issue attitudes. The results of comparisons between elite and mass attitude structures from 1980 to 2004 support our hypotheses.

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