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Ideology and the Theory of Political Choice

Ideology and the Theory of Political Choice

Melvin J. Hinich
Michael C. Munger
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Ideology and the Theory of Political Choice
    Book Description:

    There is no unified theory that can explain both voter choice and where choices come from. Hinich and Munger fill that gap with their model of political communication based on ideology.

    Rather than beginning with voters and diffuse, atomistic preferences, Hinich and Munger explore why large groups of voters share preference profiles, why they consider themselves "liberals" or "conservatives." The reasons, they argue, lie in the twin problems of communication and commitment that politicians face. Voters, overloaded with information, ignore specific platform positions. Parties and candidates therefore communicate through simple statements of goals, analogies, and by invoking political symbols. But politicians must also commit to pursuing the actions implied by these analogies and symbols. Commitment requires that ideologies be used consistently, particularly when it is not in the party's short-run interest.

    The model Hinich and Munger develop accounts for the choices of voters, the goals of politicians, and the interests of contributors. It is an important addition to political science and essential reading for all in that discipline.

    "Hinich and Munger's study of ideology and the theory of political choice is a pioneering effort to integrate ideology into formal political theory. It is a major step in directing attention toward the way in which ideology influences the nature of political choices." --Douglass C. North

    ". . . represents a significant contribution to the literature on elections, voting behavior, and social choice." --Policy Currents

    Melvin Hinich is Professor of Government, University of Texas. Michael C. Munger is Associate Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-02739-2
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xii)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Ideology and Politics (pp. 1-22)

    Most scholarly research on elections appears to accept Professor Rogers’s first insight as true, and the second as inexplicable. The “politics” of the campaign, the speeches, the persuasion, the posturing, and the symbolism, are just applesauce, a minor side dish to the main course of issue stew. Consequently, it is hard to explain why enormous resources of money, time, and energy are dissipated in this unimportant and unexamined aspect of elections.

    For some reason, actual participants seem to take the process very seriously. The way citizens make political choices affects more than just the immediate distribution of resources. The institutions,...

  5. CHAPTER 2 Representing Choice by Consumers and Citizens (pp. 23-38)

    The goal of the next four chapters is to find a means of representing political choice that is both verisimilous and scientifically sound. To represent public choices, it is useful first to briefly review the extensive work on private choice, and individual preferences over public outcomes. Two separate questions drive our consideration of voter choice among the platforms of candidates or parties in this chapter. First, how do voters actually choose? Second, how are we to represent these choices in a parsimonious, rigorous theory?

    Considerable scholarly attention has been devoted to the latter question, and we review this work. A...

  6. CHAPTER 3 The (Amended) Classical Spatial Theory of Elections (pp. 39-60)

    Any discussion of classical spatial theory applied to politics must begin with Downs (1957). In the next chapter, we will focus on Downs’s theory of ideology; for now we examine his theory of voting. Because many of Downs’s fundamental insights have been ignored or only partially developed, his model of voting is presented at length. But before we begin, it is useful to make some distinctions and establish just what we mean by a spatial model of voting. After all, this book seeks both to establish ideology as a useful analytic concept and to advance a coherent and rigorous representation...

  7. CHAPTER 4 Ideology, Candidate Strategy, and the Theory of Elections (pp. 61-80)

    In the previous two chapters, we reviewed the microeconomic approach and the classical spatial approach to the problem of political choice. The problems, or apparent flaws, we pointed out in these models are actually results, conclusions that circumscribe what can be said about politics. It is interesting, and surprising, that the extraordinarily powerful microeconomic model of choice does not represent public sector preferences. The simple median voter model, which relies on extreme separability between public and private preferences, is not very useful in investigating political phenomena. Although this approach is commonly claimed to represent public sector preferences in the literature...

  8. CHAPTER 5 Parties and Ideology (pp. 81-94)

    It would be the height of hubris to pretend to develop a theory of party development and competition in one chapter. Duverger (1951) devoted an entire volume to the question. Literally hundreds of works have attempted to define and categorize parties, coalitions, and their relation to issues and voters since, some more prominent being Key (1955); Campbell, Converse, Stokes, and Miller (1960); Burnham (1970); MacRae (1970); Duverger (1972); Sartori (1976); Fiorina (1977); Kau and Rubin (1981, 1984); Kalt and Zupan (1984, 1990); Poole and Daniels (1985); Poole and Rosenthal (1985); Nelson and Silberberg (1987); and Laver and Schofield (1990).’ What...

  9. CHAPTER 6 Theory and Evidence on Spatial Models of Ideology (pp. 95-130)

    So far, we have done two things in this book. First, we have identified some problems with the classical formal model of politics. There is an important positive interpretation to the flaws discussed above, of course. The “problems” represent the conceptual building blocks for a new and more complete theory of politics. Second, we have defined and distinguished two important concepts: ideology and party. In this chapter, we begin to bring together the concept of ideology and the fundamental formal model of political choices using ideology. The theory is based on the “predictive dimension” approach originated by Hinich and Pollard...

  10. CHAPTER 7 Empirical Models Based on the Theory of Ideology (pp. 131-164)

    The classical spatial theory of elections is based on the assumption that citizens choose alternatives that are “closest,” in some weighted Euclidean space of “issues.” The conclusion of the previous chapters is that this approach is neither realistic nor accurate as a means of representing political choice. We have not claimed that the theory is wrong, or that it is not useful. Rather, we have claimed that a theory based on ideology, one that more realistically depicts the dynamic setting and constraints on “movement,” is better, because it is more realistic and is capable of accounting for mass movements, such...

  11. CHAPTER 8 Representing Public Choices by Citizens (pp. 165-176)

    The first seven chapters of this book have developed a simple version of the theory of ideology in the representation of political choices by citizens. The theory might be summarized as follows.

    Citizens have preferences over outcomes in the n-dimensional “issue” space, where issue is defined as a policy decision that (a) affects citizens’ welfare, and (b) attracts the attention of either politicians or the media. These preferences are not necessarily fixed, in the classical microeconomic sense, but are relatively stable, and, in any case, are known to the citizens themselves.

    Political discourse is shaped and constrained by ideologies, which...

  12. CHAPTER 9 The Role of Groups (pp. 177-194)

    Our goal has been to create a model of political choice that incorporates citizens’ uncertainty about the likely actions of politicians. As the reader will recall, the orthodox spatial model allows for no uncertainty. The probabilistic spatial model allows for uncertainty from the perspective of the observer, but retains the essential character of the classical model in that voters act (from their own perspective) according to deterministic, though perhaps highly idiosyncratic, decision rules.

    All too often in the social sciences, “uncertainty” is assumed, without any rigorous basis. In this chapter on the role of groups, we claim that the importance...

  13. CHAPTER 10 The Integrated Model of Politicians, Voters, and Interest Groups (pp. 195-220)

    So far, we have identified only pieces of a complete model of politics. We have claimed that ideology is the means by which communication takes place, and the basis of political understanding. Ideology is not asubstitutefor rationality; it is the way citizens think about political life precisely because they purposively seek the best alternative in making political choices. The role of parties as collections of individuals united by a broad ideology was advanced, and the difference between a party and its ideology discussed. We have chosen probabilistic voting as an important theoretical basis for representing choice by citizens....

  14. CHAPTER 11 The Implications of Ideology for Political Choice (pp. 221-238)

    We are now ready to ask the questions that we claimed, at the outset, could only be answered by a theory of ideology. Why is political conflict so rarely a “rational” debate over policy, and so often a battle between good and evil? Why do some societies prosper and others, with similar natural resources, space, and population, languish? How can Japan, in this century, and England and the Netherlands, in the previous two, build prodigious wealth and power with virtually no natural resources? How can resource-rich Brazil and Argentina, or Russia of either 1893 or 1993, flounder in a static,...

  15. References (pp. 239-254)
  16. Name Index (pp. 255-258)
  17. Subject Index (pp. 259-267)