April 26, 2017
Haines 279
Kevin Shih

The Computational Sociology Working Group is pleased to present: 

Andrei Boutyline (University of California, Berkeley): What Explains The Systematic Character of Political Attitudes? Evidence from Two Novel Methods for Structural Analysis of Culture.


Theories of political belief systems in the tradition of Converse (1964) posit that the organization of attitudes in the population arises largely through the process of "social constraint," where individuals use their political identities as heuristic filters to select and incorporate policy stances, political values, and finer-grained ideological heuristics from political actors they perceive as “on their side.” A large body of research has confirmed that individuals’ political identity indeed has powerful effects on their political beliefs. But is the social constraint process really what gives attitudes in the population their overall organization? To answer this question, I develop two novel approaches for analyzing the structure of attitudes. First, I draw on information theory to examine whether a single simple system of organization like the one implied by the social constraint account is enough to account for the overall organization of political attitudes. Second, I use network analysis to test whether political identity occupies a brokerage position holding together otherwise relatively disconnected parts of the belief system, as would be expected from the unique role it plays in the social constraint account. When I apply these methods to the 2000 American National Election Study, my results indicate that, at least in the United States, the organization of attitudes is broadly consistent with the social constraint account.


If you are interested in setting up an individual meeting with Andrei before/after the talk or attending the lunch after the talk, please contact

The Irene Flecknoe Ross Lecture Series is made possible by a gift from Ray Ross in memory of his wife.