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Belief Systems: Constraint, Complexity, and the 1972 Election

James A. Stimson
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 19, No. 3 (Aug., 1975), pp. 393-417
DOI: 10.2307/2110536
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110536
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Belief Systems: Constraint, Complexity, and the 1972 Election
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Abstract

There is little agreement about the degree to which the American electorate structures its beliefs about salient aspects of the political scene. Disagreement arises in large part from the use of differing concepts of belief structuring. Some researchers look for evidence of consistency, simplicity, and power in belief systems and do not find it in large measure. Others look for complexity and multidimensionality and do find it. Both believe they are measuring belief sophistication. Both schools expect to find greatest evidence of sophistication among the educated and well informed and least among the uneducated and uniformed. The 1972 electorate is stratified by education and political information, and operational indicators of both "constraint" and "complexity" notions of belief structure are examined.

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