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Operational and Symbolic Ideology in the American Electorate: The Paradox of "Conflicted Conservatives"
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Abstract Americans in the norm prefer “conservative” to “liberal” identifications and symbols. But given a choice of policy options, these same citizens in the norm prefer liberal to conservative policies. Resolving this long-known paradox is the motivation of this paper. We focus on why conservative symbols are so much more attractive than liberal symbols. The answer we propose is that liberalism is a unitary ideology, viewed more or less the same way by all most self-identified liberals. By contrast, we posit three quite different pathways that can lead citizens to a conservative identification. Some conservatives combine conservative identifications with truly conservative preferences in both economic and moral domains. Others come to conservatism from religious orthodoxy and commitment to traditional religious principles without either knowing the meaning of or supporting “conservative” views of scope of government issues. For them, “conservative” describes religious belief and is translated into politics absent the conventional understanding of what conservatives stand for. Still others acquire from elite discourse a fondness for conservative self-identification while professing policy views that are plainly liberal in both “scope of government” and “moral” issue domains. Their identifications are based on an image devoid of implications for real political choices. We undertake an exploratory dimensional analysis of issues in the ANES 2000 study to score preferences on the “New Deal” scope of government domain and on a smaller traditional moral values domain. The analysis shows that the three paths to conservative identification are taken by people who are quite different from one another.

Authors: Ellis, Christopher. and Stimson, James.
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1
Abstract
Americans in the norm prefer “conservative” to “liberal” identifications and symbols. But
given a choice of policy options, these same citizens in the norm prefer liberal to conservative
policies. Resolving this long-known paradox is the motivation of this paper. We focus on why
conservative symbols are so much more attractive than liberal symbols. The answer we propose
is that liberalism is a unitary ideology, viewed more or less the same way by all most self-
identified liberals. By contrast, we posit three quite different pathways that can lead citizens to a
conservative identification. Some conservatives combine conservative identifications with truly
conservative preferences in both economic and moral domains. Others come to conservatism
from religious orthodoxy and commitment to traditional religious principles without either
knowing the meaning of or supporting “conservative” views of scope of government issues. For
them, “conservative” describes religious belief and is translated into politics absent the
conventional understanding of what conservatives stand for. Still others acquire from elite
discourse a fondness for conservative self-identification while professing policy views that are
plainly liberal in both “scope of government” and “moral” issue domains. Their identifications
are based on an image devoid of implications for real political choices.
We undertake an exploratory dimensional analysis of issues in the ANES 2000 study to
score preferences on the “New Deal” scope of government domain and on a smaller traditional
moral values domain. The analysis shows that the three paths to conservative identification are
taken by people who are quite different from one another.


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