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Measuring Left-Right and Libertarian-Authoritarian Values in the British Electorate

Geoffrey Evans, Anthony Heath and Mansur Lalljee
The British Journal of Sociology
Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp. 93-112
DOI: 10.2307/591118
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/591118
Page Count: 20
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Measuring Left-Right and Libertarian-Authoritarian Values in the British Electorate
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Abstract

Butler and Stokes' authoritative analysis of the British electorate concluded that in general voters' political attitudes were poorly formed and, in consequence, unstable and inconsistent. This paper re-examines this question by developing and evaluating multiple-item scales of two core dimensions of mass political beliefs: left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values. The scales are shown to have respectable levels of internal consistency, high levels of stability over a one-year period, and to be useful predictors of support for political parties. In these respects they compare favourably with other commonly used indicators of political attitudes, values and ideology (left-right self-placement, postmaterialism and attitudes to nationalization). This superiority applies across different levels of political involvement. Contrary to the conclusions of earlier research into mass political ideology in Britain, therefore, it is contended that in general the electorate has meaningful political beliefs. Moreover, as the scales developed in this research form part of the British and Northern Irish Social Attitudes Series and recent British Election Studies, they provide an important resource for further studies of political culture in the UK.

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