The study of mass ideology has animated public opinion research in the United States and beyond for over half a century. Although scholars often disagree on the precise definition of ideology, a common theme in most work centers on the role that the liberal–conservative continuum plays in shaping public opinion and guiding political behavior. In books and journals, scholars have studied the nature of ideology. Among these are the following: different types of ideology, the degree of ideological consistency in political preferences, the relationship between political sophistication and ideological reasoning and evaluation, mass–elite differences in ideological reasoning and evaluation, ideological polarization and sorting, the relationship between values and ideology, the underlying psychological and physiological precursors that undergird ideological attachment and expression, and the way in which macro-level ideology affects system-level variables such as election outcomes and public policy. The answers to these questions speak directly to profound theoretical and normative questions about preference formation in the mass public, the origins of ideology, mass–elite communications, citizen competence, and the extent to which the institutions of representative government are responsive to collective public preferences for more or less government. Scholars have employed diverse methods and techniques to study, measure, and assess the nature and effects of ideology in public thinking. This article focuses primarily on mass ideology in the context of the United States, but it also references important works drawn from the fields of comparative political behavior and comparative political psychology.
Given the high rate of production of ideology studies, scholars have produced extensive review essays summarizing key developments in the field every five to ten years. The studies referenced in this section cover research from the seminal pieces that appeared in the early 1960s to 2015. The sequence is as follows: Converse 1975; Kinder and Sears 1985; Gerring 1997; Kinder 1998; Converse 2000; Jacoby 2002; Mair 2007; Lewis-Beck, et al. 2008; Jost, et al. 2009; and Carmines and D’Amico 2015. These works all touch on ideology, with some covering other aspects of public opinion and political behavior.
Carmines, Edward G., and Nicholas J. D’Amico. “The New Look in Political Ideology Research.” Annual Review of Political Science 18 (2015): 205–216.
This recent update on the state of field emphasizes the economic and social dimensions of ideology.
Converse, Philip E. “Public Opinion and Voting Behavior.” In Handbook of Political Science. Vol. 4. Edited by Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby, 75–169. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975.
Exhaustive summary of developments in the field penned by the leading scholar of mass ideology. Converse provides a thoughtful and balanced overview of his seminal contributions (see also Campbell, et al. 1960 and Converse 1964, both cited under Classic Works) and the work of his critics.
Converse, Philip E. “Assessing the Capacity of Mass Electorates.” Annual Review of Political Science 3 (2000): 331–353.
Converse reflects on over three decades of research on ideology, public opinion, and citizen competence, with an emphasis on the most important works produced during the 1990s.
Gerring, John. “Ideology: A Definitional Analysis.” Political Research Quarterly 50 (1997): 957–994.
Provides an extensive analysis of the many different ways in which scholars have conceptualized ideology.
Jacoby, William G. “Liberal–Conservative Thinking in the American Electorate.” In Political Decision-Making, Participation, and Deliberation. Vol. 6. Research in Micropolitics 6. Edited by Michael X. Delli Carpini, Leonie Huddy, and Robert Y. Shapiro, 97–147. Boston: JAI, 2002.
Focused and detailed review of the different ways in which scholars have conceptualized and measured ideology and how individual differences in political sophistication affect ideological reasoning.
Jost, John T., Christopher M. Federico, and Jaime L. Napier. “Political Ideology: Its Structure, Functions, and Elective Affinities.” Annual Review of Psychology 60 (2009): 307–337.
An excellent overview of the psychological precursors that underlie mass ideology and how these interact with elite framing to shape ideological judgement.
Kinder, Donald R. “Opinion and Action in the Realm of Politics.” In Handbook of Social Psychology. 4th ed. Edited by Daniel T. Gilbert, Susan T. Fiske, and Gardner Lindzey, 778–867. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
A comprehensive summary of developments in the study of public opinion, political ideology, and political behavior between 1985 and 1998.
Kinder, Donald R., and David O. Sears. “Public Opinion and Political Action.” In Handbook of Social Psychology. 3d ed. Edited by Gardner Lindzey and Elliot Aronson, 659–742. New York: Random House, 1985.
A comprehensive study of public opinion, political ideology, and political behavior since the publication of Converse 1975.
Lewis-Beck, Michael S., William G. Jacoby, Helmut Norpoth, and Herbert F. Weisberg. The American Voter Revisited. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008.
This book replicates the analyses carried out in the field’s foundational work on political behavior (see also Campbell, et al. 1960, cited under Classic Works) and provides extensive commentary on developments in the study of ideology over time. The authors find that ideological thinking in the mass public in 2000 had advanced slightly beyond the minimal levels observed in the 1950s.
Mair, Peter. “Left–Right Orientations.” In The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior. Edited by Russell J. Dalton and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, 206–223. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Mair provides a brief informative summary of work on values and left–right ideology in comparative perspective.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Advanced Democracies, Electoral System Reform in
- Advanced Democracies, Public Opinion and Public Policy in
- Advertising and Election Campaigns in the United States
- Africa, Comparative Politics of
- African Development, Politics of
- American Indian Politics
- Arab-Israel Conflict, The
- Arendt, Hannah
- Aristotle's Political Thought
- Arms Race Modeling
- Australia and New Zealand, Comparative Politics of
- Authoritarianism in Russia
- Authoritarianism in the Public
- Authoritarianism in Turkey
- Bicameralism in Stable Democracies
- Big Data in Political Science Research
- Biopolitics and State Regulation of Human Life
- Brazilian Political Development
- Business-State Relations in Europe
- Campaign Finance in the Era of Super-PACS
- Canadian Foreign Policy
- Candidate Emergence and Recruitment
- Channels of Electoral Representation in Advanced Industria...
- China's One-Child Policy
- China-Taiwan Relations
- Chinese Communist Party
- Chinese Economic Policy
- Chinese Nationalism
- Civil Society in South Asia
- Civil War in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Civil-Military Relations in Asia
- Civil-Military Relations in Latin America
- Class in American Politics
- Climate Change and Politics
- Comparative Capitalism Theory
- Comparative Industrial Relations in Europe
- Comparative Politics of Angola, Mozambique, and Guinea-Bis...
- Comparative Politics of Chile and Uruguay
- Comparative Politics of Federalism
- Comparative Politics of the Middle East and North Africa
- Congress, Defense, and Foreign Policy
- Congressional Reassertion of Authority
- Conservative Litigation Strategies and Groups in US Judici...
- Corruption in China
- Cosmopolitan Political Thought
- Crisis of European Integration in Historical Perspective, ...
- Critical Elections, Partisan Realignment, and Long-Term El...
- Critical Theory and the Frankfurt School
- Cuban Political Development
- Cycles of Protest
- Democracy and Authoritarianism in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Democracy and Dictatorship in Central Asia
- Democracy in Latin America
- Democratic Citizenship
- Democratic Consolidation
- Democratic Peace Theory
- Democratic Theory
- Democratization in Africa
- Democratization in Central America
- Democratization in Mexico
- Development of Survey Research
- Direct Democracy in the United States
- East Africa, Politics of
- Economic Voting
- Election Forecasting
- Election Laws in Democracies
- Electoral and Party System Development in Sub-Saharan Afri...
- Electoral Change in Latin America
- Electoral Reform and Voting in the United States
- Emotion and Racial Attitudes in Contemporary American Poli...
- Environmental Governance
- Environmental Politics among Advanced Industrial Democraci...
- Ethnic Diasporas and US Foreign Policy
- Ethnic Politics
- Eurasia, Comparative Politics of
- European Social Democracy
- European Union, Politics of the
- Failed and Weak States in Theory and Practice
- Far-Right Parties in Europe
- Federalism in the United States
- Feminist Political Thought
- Field Experiments
- Filibuster, The
- Gender and Electoral Politics in the United States
- Gender and International Relations
- Gender, Behavior, and Representation
- Global Inequality
- Globalization and the Welfare State
- Globalization, Health Crises, and Health Care
- Governance in Africa
- Governmental Responses to Political Corruption
- Gridlock and Divided Government in the U.S.
- Historiography of Twentieth-Century American Conservatism,...
- Hobbes’s Political Thought
- Hume's Political Thought
- Hybrid Regimes
- Identity and Political Behavior
- Ideological Reasoning in Politics
- Immigrant Incorporation in Canada
- Immigrant Incorporation in Western Europe
- Immigration and International Relations
- Immigration Politics and Policy in the United States
- Impact of Campaign Contributions on Congressional Behavior...
- Implicit Attitudes in Public Opinion
- Income Dynamics and Politics in North America and Europe
- Income Inequality and Advanced Democracies
- Income Inequality in the United States, The Politics of
- Indian Democracy
- Indigenous Rights and Governance in Canada, Australia, and...
- Informal Practices of Accountability in Urban Africa
- Institutional Change in Advanced Democracies
- Intellectual Property in International Relations
- Interest Groups and Inequality in the United States
- Interest Groups in American Politics
- Interethnic Contact and Impact on Attitudes
- International Conflict Management
- International Criminal Justice
- International Law
- International NGOs
- International Political Economy of Illegal Drugs
- Internet and Politics, The
- Iran, Political Development of
- Israeli Politics
- Judicial Supremacy and National Judicial Review
- Judiciaries and Politics in East Asia
- Kant's Political Thought
- Labor Politics in East Asia
- Land Reform in Latin America
- Latin America, Democratic Transitions in
- Latin America, Environmental Policy and Politics in
- Latin America, Guerrilla Insurgencies in
- Latin America, Social Movements in
- Legal Mobilization
- LGBT Politics in the United States
- Liberal Pluralism
- Local Governments in the United States
- Machiavelli’s Political Thought
- Marx's Political Thought
- Mass Incarceration and US Politics
- Mechanisms of Representation
- Media Effects in Politics
- Media Politics in South Asia
- Mexican Political Development
- Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the Un...
- Modern Dynastic Rule
- Modern Elections and Voting Behavior in Europe
- Motivated Reasoning
- National Interbranch Politics in the United States
- NATO, Politics of
- Negative Campaigning
- Neoclassical Realism
- New Institutionalism Revisited, The
- North America, Comparative Politics of
- Oil, Politics of
- Online Public Opinion Polling
- Origins and Impact of Proportional Representation, The
- Outcomes of Social Movements and Protest Activities
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Theories of Organization in the U...
- Partisan Polarization in the US Congress
- Partisan Polarization in the US Electorate
- Party Networks
- Party System Institutionalization in Democracies
- Peace Operations
- Personality and Politics
- Plato's Political Thought
- Policy Feedback
- Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion
- Political Ambition
- Political Economy of Financial Regulation in Advanced Ind...
- Political Economy of India
- Political Economy of Taxation, The
- Political Geography in American Politics
- Political Obligation
- Political Parties and Electoral Politics of Japan
- Political Thought, Hegel's
- Political Thought of the American Founders, The
- Politics and Policy in Contemporary Argentina
- Politics of Anti-Americanism
- Politics of Class Formation
- Politics of Disaster Prevention and Management
- Politics of Financial Crises
- Politics of Foreign Direct Investment in South Asia
- Politics of Higher Education in the U.S.
- Politics of Internal Conquest in the United States and Can...
- Politics of Japan
- Politics of Natural Disasters, The
- Politics of North Korea
- Politics of Science and Technology
- Politics of South Africa
- Politics of Southern Africa
- Politics of the American South
- Politics of the US-Mexico Border
- Postcolonialism and International Relations
- Post-Communist Democratization
- Preferential Trade Agreements, Politics of
- Presidential Persuasion and Public Opinion
- Presidential Primaries and Caucuses
- Private Governance
- Public Opinion in Advanced Industrial Democracies
- Public Opinion in New Democracies and Developing Nations
- Public Presidency, US Elections, and the Permanent Campaig...
- Qualitative Methods, The Renewal of
- Race in American Political Thought
- Racial and Ethnic Descriptive Representation in the United...
- Regime Transitions and Variation in Post-Communist Europe
- Regional Integration in Latin America
- Regional Security
- Regulating Food Production
- Religion in American Political Thought
- Religion in Contemporary Political Thought
- Religion, Politics, and Civic Engagement in the United Sta...
- Rousseau's Political Thought
- Rule of Law
- Russia and the West
- Science and Democracy
- Science and Social Movements
- Social Policy and Immigrant Integration
- South Korea, Politics of
- Spectacle, The
- State Building in Sub-Saharan Africa
- State Formation
- State, The Nature of the
- Supreme Court and Public Opinion
- Supreme Court of the United States, The
- Systemic Theories of International Politics
- Taiwan, Politics of
- Tea Party, The
- Thailand, Politics of
- The New Right in American Political Thought
- Tocqueville’s Political Thought
- Transitional Justice
- Transnational Private Regulation
- Turkey, Political Development of
- US Military Bases Abroad
- US Presidency, The
- US Presidential Campaigns and Their Impact
- Voter Turnout
- Voter Turnout Field Experiments
- Welfare State Development
- Welfare State Development in Latin America
- Welfare State Development in Western Europe
- West Africa, Politics of
- Worker Politics in China
- Youth and Generational Differences in US Politics