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The Structure of Attitude Systems in the General Public: Comparisons of a Structural Equation Model

Charles M. Judd and Michael A. Milburn
American Sociological Review
Vol. 45, No. 4 (Aug., 1980), pp. 627-643
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095012
Page Count: 17
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The Structure of Attitude Systems in the General Public: Comparisons of a Structural Equation Model
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Abstract

Philip Converse and other theorists have argued that the public at large does not have meaningful and stable attitudes. Specifically, they have argued that the public's attitudes, as compared to those of the political "elite," show less stability over time and less consistency between issues and are less likely to be based upon an underlying ideological predisposition. These hypotheses have been supported, generally, by computing correlations between attitude questions and comparing them between public and elite samples. The present paper examines all three hypotheses using a structural equation approach. This allows us to: (a) test for a single common underlying ideological construct; (b) separate ideological stability from issue-specific stability; and (c) use unstandardized structural coefficients to make between-sample comparisons. Using panel data from 1972-1974-1976 national surveys, we find that both the highly educated and the uneducated public show evidence of an underlying ideological predisposition, show remarkable stability in their attitudes, and show equal consistency or constraint between different attitude issues.

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