A multidimensional study of ideological preferences and priorities among the American Public

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Political ideology is not always best measured along a unidimensional spectrum. With a multidimensional construct, we are better able to understand the complexities of Americans' ideological views. This research note presents new survey data from a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 Americans. The survey asks respondents to place themselves on distinct ideological scales regarding social and economic issues, then to prioritize the importance of these issues. The first of its kind to include both ideological preferences and attitude importance, this survey contributes new insights into the complex dimensionality of ideology. Results reveal a plurality of individuals identifying as conservative on both social and economic issues, and a smaller group that is consistently liberal on both policy spectrums. Eleven percent of respondents self-identify as liberal on one scale and conservative on the other, yet choose to identify as "moderate" on the traditional unidimensional scale. By analyzing an extensive set of attitudinal and behavioral measures - including vote choice in the 2012 presidential election - this research demonstrates that true moderates are substantially different from those who mix both social and economic beliefs. It further shows that the vast majority of Americans place more importance on economic issues than on social issues, which has greater influence over respondents' unidimensional ideological placement as well as their presidential vote choice. This study reveals important consequences of the multidimensional nature of ideology at the mass level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)344-359
Number of pages16
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue numberS1
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'A multidimensional study of ideological preferences and priorities among the American Public'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this