Political Ideology: A Reconceptualization
The concept of political ideology has reappeared as a powerful construct in social psychology. Most psychological research on ideology is based on simple unidimensional (bipolar) or two dimensional models that contrast “conservatives” and “liberals” and/or distinguish between a socio-cultural and an economic sphere. Based on insights from political theory, we approach ideology in terms of holistic, complex systems of beliefs about the ideal arrangement of society. We applied this approach in Germany using expert data and Q techniques to operationalize prototypical ideological views (profiles) of the “well-functioning society”. For each prototypical ideology we calculated similarity scores for participants in a representative survey study (N = 402). We identified six prototypical ideologies: social liberalism, economic liberalism, socialism, right-wing conservatism, moderate leftism, and moderate rightist orientation. The ideology scores incrementally predicted emotions and prejudice toward outgroups beyond traditional measures such as left-right self-placement and right-wing authoritarianism. Corresponding data have been collected in Israel. We argue that our approach to ideology is more phenomenon-adequate in different socio-political contexts than extant alternatives; can contribute usefully to the integration of personality and social-cognition based models of ideology with (inter)group and social-representations approaches; and has incremental value in explaining relevant attitudes, emotions, and motivations.
*Christopher Cohrs is a Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Marburg (Germany)