Group Ambivalence and Electoral Decision-Making
Recent insights about attitude structure and process have spawned a new understanding of the nature and dynamics of mass opinion. On the structural side, there is mounting evidence that political opinions are more complex than the unidimensional summary statements (e.g., unfavorable or favorable, cold or warm, negative or positive) routinely used to measure them. On the processing side, opinions often are not directly retrieved from memory in summary form but, instead, are constructed episodically on the basis of an “on-the-spot” memory search using whatever considerations are momentarily salient (Tourangeau, Rips, and Rasinski 2000; Zaller and Feldman 1992; but see Lodge, McGraw, and Stroh 1989; Lodge, Steenbergen, and Brau 1995). Although political scientists have only recently begun to incorporate these insights into empirical models of political behavior, they have long recognized that opinions are infused with conflicting beliefs and feelings. The authors of The American Voter wrote, for example, that an individual voter’s “system of partisan attitudes” could be consistently favorable toward one party, or that the elements of the system could be in conflict (Campbell et al. 1960; also see Free and Cantril 1967; Lazarsfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1944). Contemporary research suggests further that ambivalence—an internalized conflict about a specific political choice—is a prevalent characteristic of political belief systems, with important implications for how citizens make political decisions.
KeywordsPolicy Attitude Political Behavior Conservative Group Party Identification Vote Choice
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