ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Friday 21st July, 13:00 - 14:30 Room: F2 105

Measuring the change (or the lack of) of political attitudes 3

Chair Dr Roula Nezi (GESIS-Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences )
Coordinator 1Dr Theofanis Exadaktylos (University of Surrey)

Session Details

Since the onset of the financial crisis in Europe in 2008 a series of tumultuous events have unfolded across Europe. The European Union is confronted with a series of social and political challenges that affect European citizens across all member states, such as the rise of austerity as a result of the economic crisis, the migration influx from inside and outside the European Union, terrorism and security threats, as well as the rise of new political forces questioning the future of European Integration. This chain of events has not only challenged the political elites of the European Union and its member states but it has also affected citizens' political attitudes.

The purpose of this panel is the understanding of the stability or change of citizens' behaviour as an essential element in political science and comparative politics, especially within the context of turbulence in Europe. The panel incorporates ideas linked to the wider topics of the rise of populism, the questioning of established democratic values, norms and institutions by European citizens, and the rise of support for extreme and radical voices within mainstream politics.

This panel accepts papers that use survey based research including survey experiments and experimental designs to gauge short or long term changes of political attitudes, including but not limited to:

- Attitudes towards democracy
- Political preferences including party choice
- Perceptions of authoritarian personalities, and
- Support for populist or anti-systemic parties and political formations.

The focus of the panel is not the case(s) selected but rather the application of the method and its connection to rigorous empirical analysis.

Paper Details

1. Ideology Versus Party Identification: Which Measure is More Stable?
Miss Sarah Cho (SurveyMonkey)

When it comes to the stability of political ideology and partisan affiliation, results have been mixed. Some researchers have found than ideology is more stable than party identification, while others have found that partisan affiliation is more stable than ideology - even using the same dataset.

In this study, we examine which is more stable: political ideology or party identification. After individuals completed a user-created online survey on the SurveyMonkey platform, we asked respondents to take one more survey related to politics. Upon completing this political poll, respondents were then asked to join a non-probability panel and recontacted again at a later date. In this presentation, we will examine whether party identification or political ideology is more stable over time within these individuals that completed the political survey and joined the panel. We will also present on the stability of other views, including candidate support and presidential approval.


2. Left and Right Political Orientation in Eastern and Western Europe: Is it the same? A Study on Metric Invariance and External Validation
Dr Adrian Wojcik (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland)

The left–right, or liberal–conservative, ideological opposition is one of the most important distinctions organizing the political scene and political life (Bobbio, 1996; Lipset, 1960; Jost 2006; Fuchs and Klingemann, 1990; Giddens, 1994). It has been widely used both in the realm of politics and in sociopolitical research as a proxy measurement for general political attitudes. Although most prevalent, the left-right distinction is at the same time described by political philosophers as a vague term that may be filled with different contextual meaning (Bobbio, 1996; Giddens, 1994).

Traditionally, left-right orientation is related to two distinct ideological spheres: (1) the tolerance for economic inequality within society; and (2) attitude toward traditional social arrangements. The typical left-wing oriented person is therefore someone who: (1) does not tolerate economic inequalities and supports redistributive state policies; (2) is more permissive and open to social change.

Empirical research suggests however that this conceptualization of left-right political labels may not be universal. The connection between left-right orientation and economic and moral beliefs collapses especially in the non-Western European countries (Tavits & Letki, 2009; Thorisdottir, Jost, Liviatan, & Shrout, 2007). For example, analyses of the governmental policies showed that in Eastern Europe redistribution (as indicated by total, health, and education spending) was higher under right-wing than under left-wing governments suggesting differences in the underpinnings of the left-right political orientation. The different historical trajectories and dual transition of post-communist countries to democracy and to market economy may have contributed to differences in ideological content of the left-right political labels.

The existing research was focused however mainly on the way that the left-right distinction was used in official party politics or limited to a specific subgroup of European countries. In the proposed paper we examine in a systematic manner the ideological underpinnings of the left-right political orientation of citizens across 43 Eastern and Western European countries and three waves of European Values Study. We hypothesized that while in Western countries the relation between left-right identification should be congruent with both economical and moral beliefs, no such clear pattern should be found within Eastern Europe. The analysis supported our hypotheses.


3. Constraining Change or changing constraints? Attitude-Predisposition relations and employment status changes
Ms Nadja Wehl (Bamberg Graduate School of Social Sciences)

The “euro-crisis” fueled worries about leftist shifts in public opinion. The scapegoats for these perceived trends are found quite soon: the poor, the unemployed, and the insecure. With high unemployment rates, especially among the young in the South European Countries, and the rise of Syriza, Podemos and so on, it seems obvious what is happening: people that experience a worsening of their material circumstances move to the left of the political spectrum. However, this argument has a blind spot: it disregards individual’s previous political views, especially their basic political beliefs. It is not at all clear, if people deviate from their basic political beliefs after the experience of material deprivation.

To tackle this issue, this paper aims at combining two literature traditions: the political psychology literature on attitudinal constraint and the political economy literature on material/socio-economic influences on policy attitudes. The literature on attitudinal constraint is inspired by Converse’s idea of political belief systems. Researches in this tradition analyze how specific policy attitudes are derived from and influenced and stabilized by political predispositions like ideology, party attachments etc. Empirical contributions show for example, how strong relations between attitudes and predispositions are, or how these relations change over time. The political economy literature starts from the self-interest assumption: attitudes are guided by material self-interest. Research in this tradition analyses how material circumstances like e.g. income or employments status influence attitudes, especially redistributive attitudes.

While a major part of the mentioned political psychology literature disregards the socio-economic environment, the typical political economy disregards individuals’ predispositions. Combining both views, the main question this paper tries to answer is: Do employment status changes affect the relation between political predispositions and social policy attitudes, especially unemployment benefits?

The analyses will be carried out using data from the Swiss Household Panel (SHP). In a first step, I will analyze if and how attitudes and constraining predispositions change in response to employment status changes. The main analysis step will then consist of an inquiry in the moderation effect of employment status changes. Do they increase or decrease the relation n between attitudes and predispositions?

These analyses can be carried out using two different strategies. On the one hand, fixed effects panel models can be used. The big advantage of these models is that they control for constant unobserved heterogeneity. Thus, factors ranging from personality to education cannot bias the results. The disadvantage (at least with the SHP data) is that attitudes towards unemployment benefits are only observed in two waves. Thus the number of observable labor market chances is naturally restricted.

Therefore, I complement these fixed effects analyses with analyses on the relation between labor market policy attitudes and predispositions in one wave taking into account the whole employment status change history of respondents. Here, the big advantage is the long term perspective.

With these analyses I hope to make a contribution to the understanding of both, political reasoning and political effects of employment status (changes).


4. Is There A Religious Base for Feelings of European Identity?
Dr Vera Lomazzi (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)
Dr Markus Quandt (GESIS - Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences)

This proposal relates to the debate on a possible Christian substance of “Europe” and aims to investigate the role of religiosity in shaping European Identity. It has been argued that the European Union needs a “thick identity”, built on heritage, history, culture, religion, and values, to be legitimate and politically sustainable. Others argue that a “thin identity” might, - or, taking a normative perspective: should -, suffice, which would then be based on a social contract and shared (societal) objectives, embodied in formal citizenship and the attached rights and obligations.
We will not directly contribute to this debate, but we will try to shed light on the question whether Europe currently has a good starting base for building a common “thick” identity. Leaving many aspects of that aside for the time being, we will here focus on a potential religious component in such an identity.
Despite the strongly expressed laicism of the European Union’s rules and institutions, some elements suggest a relation between Christian religiosity and the European Union’s roots. One is the fact that Europe is the only world region with around 1,000 years of Christian hegemony, which might lead one to expect a ‘natural’ Christian imprint on everything European. And indeed, there is a certain overlap of declared religious values and of ‘European’ values: official teachings of the Church stress basic human rights, as much as many EU documents do (Art. 2 & 6 of Lisbon Treaty), affirming universalistic values and non-discrimination principles. But such abstract declarations do not necessarily have a reflection in the attitudes of European citizens, neither on the religious, nor on the political side.
The present paper intends to address these topics by looking at representative population samples from multiple EU member countries. We will investigate to what degree religious orientation and behaviour are associated with subjective identification with “Europe” as a political and societal entity. For this, we will look both at indicators of respondents’ self-concepts, and of their willingness to exert solidarity with fellow-Europeans.
By using data from the IntUne surveys (2007 and 2009) we look at the effects of religious denominations, religious practice, and proxies for individual universalism on the individual definition of European Identity in 17 European countries. In our modeling, through Multi-level Latent Class Analysis to identify types of European identification, we plan to include duration of EU membership, Communist past, distribution of religious denominations, and several aggregate variables from the European Values Study regarding some religious orientation as level-2 covariates.