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This study looks at the relationship between standard indicators of conservatism and self-labeling behavior. Many of the variables believed to be indicative of conservatism and liberalism are not the variables people use when labeling themselves conservative or liberal. It is proposed that many of the standard social and political variables tend to be period- and age-specific in terms of their relationship to self-labeling behavior. The variables are period-specific because at any point in time there are a number of issues that are particularly salient and divisive, and therefore tend to affect self-labeling behavior. The variables are age-specific because social networks greatly influence sociopolitical attitudes and affiliations and the makeup of social networks tend to vary over the course of one's life. To test for the period- and age-specific nature of self-labeling behavior the General Social Survey is used. Results suggest that some standard indicators of conservatism are strongly correlated with self-perceived conservatism but only for the youngest age group. Results also show that moral issues such as premarital sex, abortion, pornography and marijuana use are particularly strong correlates of self-labeling behavior for these respondents.
The Sociological Quarterly © 1994 Midwest Sociological Society