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Knowing Left from Right: Ideological Thinking in the 2002 and 2006 Brazilian Presidential Elections
Unformatted Document Text:  thinking. We might suspect that respondents who identify an ideology in five out of six waves differ little from those who report an ideology in every wave, because a single data point could be missing due to some kind of measurement error unrelated to the respondent’s ideological sophistication. About 45 percent of the sample fall into the 5- or 6-response category. As we move down the table and the number of waves missing rises, however, the measurement error argument becomes more dubious. If a respondent identifies an ideology in three waves and fails to do so in the other three, this suggests that the respondent is on the whole not thinking in fully ideological terms. Even in waves in which this respondent reports an ideology, we might temper our interpretation of the reported ideology with some skepticism. The consistency with which an individual responds thus provides important information that we should take into account in evaluating the meaning of leftism. [Table 3 about here.] Stability has to do with more than whether a person responds. We should also consider the consistency of chosen positions. In the next several tables I examine changes in ideological position from one wave to another, assigning a value of 0 to right, .25 to center-right, .5 to center, .75 to center-left, and 1 to left. Table 4 presents each respondent’s largest change in ideology between any two consecutive waves. To construct this measure I take the absolute value of the difference between ideology in a given wave and its own value lagged one wave. Thus, the sample here is all respondents who reported an ideology in any two consecutive waves. As we can see, almost a third of the sample never changes its reported position, and a majority never experiences any change greater than .25 between any two waves. We might argue that a one-wave change of .25—for instance, from left to center-left, or from center-right to center—is consistent with stable ideology, given measurement error and the difficulty of mapping attitudes 13

Authors: Smith, Amy.
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thinking. We might suspect that respondents who identify an ideology in five out of six waves
differ little from those who report an ideology in every wave, because a single data point could
be missing due to some kind of measurement error unrelated to the respondent’s ideological
sophistication. About 45 percent of the sample fall into the 5- or 6-response category. As we
move down the table and the number of waves missing rises, however, the measurement error
argument becomes more dubious. If a respondent identifies an ideology in three waves and fails
to do so in the other three, this suggests that the respondent is on the whole not thinking in fully
ideological terms. Even in waves in which this respondent reports an ideology, we might temper
our interpretation of the reported ideology with some skepticism. The consistency with which an
individual responds thus provides important information that we should take into account in
evaluating the meaning of leftism.
[Table 3 about here.]
Stability has to do with more than whether a person responds. We should also consider
the consistency of chosen positions. In the next several tables I examine changes in ideological
position from one wave to another, assigning a value of 0 to right, .25 to center-right, .5 to
center, .75 to center-left, and 1 to left. Table 4 presents each respondent’s largest change in
ideology between any two consecutive waves. To construct this measure I take the absolute
value of the difference between ideology in a given wave and its own value lagged one wave.
Thus, the sample here is all respondents who reported an ideology in any two consecutive waves.
As we can see, almost a third of the sample never changes its reported position, and a majority
never experiences any change greater than .25 between any two waves. We might argue that a
one-wave change of .25—for instance, from left to center-left, or from center-right to center—is
consistent with stable ideology, given measurement error and the difficulty of mapping attitudes
13


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