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The Journal of Social Psychology, 1983, 119, 293-294.

A SCALE TO MEASURE CONSERVATISM OF AMERICAN PUBLIC OPINION*



University of New South Wales, Australia

JOHN J. RAY

In an earlier paper (1) a report was given of the administration in late 1979 to a random mail-out sample of Californians of 68 items designed to measure various aspects of liberalism and conservatism. Strong evidence was found for a unidimensional structure in the data. Because there are very few attitude scales based on general population sampling in the literature and because many existing scales have inevitably become rather dated as social issues change, it was thought that a short form of the 68-item scale would be suitable for general use, and especially in studies characterizing a given sample as being either particularly liberal or particularly conservative.

The 22 items showing the highest correlation with the score on the 68-item total scale were selected and the data rescored for those items only. The reliability (alpha) found was .85 and the correlation between the positively and negatively scored halves was .43. The latter figure shows that the selected items are fairly free from acquiescence contamination. Each of 22 items has seven possible points of agreement, scored as follows: Strongly Agree = 1, Agree = 2, Agree some = 3, Not sure = 4, etc. for "liberal" items and 7, 6, 5, etc. for the same answers to "conservative" items; the mean and SD for the scale were 101.51 and 21.25. Items nos. 1, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, & 21 were "liberal" and the rest were conservative. The list of the items follows:

1. A free dental service should be provided by the Federal government.
2. Schoolchildren should have plenty of discipline.
3. The government should not attempt to limit business profits.
4. Erotic and obscene literature should be prohibited from public sale.
5. The Federal government should introduce a health insurance scheme which would cover every American no matter what he does.
6. Labor unions should make more efforts to grab corporate profits for the workers.
7. People should be allowed to hold demonstrations in the streets without police interference.
8. The police deserve more praise for the difficult job they do.
9. Law and order is more important than letting every kook have his say.
10. People who are always protesting to have something banned or stopped would probably howl the loudest if they themselves were banned.
11. Government attempts to prevent people using marijuana are just about as stupid as prohibition of alcohol was.
12. The rebellious ideas of young people are often a constructive source of change for the better.
13. Laws against homosexuality are old-fashioned and wrong.
14. People should be free to get on with their own lives without being pestered by governments and do-gooders.
15. Busing of children to school outside their own neighbourhoods is an unforgivable infringement of individual liberties.
16. People who show disrespect for their country's flag should be punished for it.
17. The government should make sure that our armed forces are stronger than those of Russia at all times.
18. The right of strikers to picket a firm they are striking against should not be interfered with.
19. The police are generally corrupt and brutal.
20. The government should do everything it can to eradicate poverty in this country.
21. Military training is unnatural and has a tendency to warp people.
22. People who want more money should work harder for it instead of trying to get it off the government in one way or another.

Such is the flow of events that even the items of this present scale might have been a little different if the full battery had been administered today. New issues have arisen recently that could not be included above. Thus, although the scale is a contemporary one, it cannot have the total topicality that a scale constructed at the time of use might have.

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1. Ray, J.J. (1982) Authoritarianism/libertarianism as the second dimension of social attitudes. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 33-44.

School of Sociology, University of New South Wales P.O. Box 1, Kensington, 2033 Australia

* Received in the Editorial Office, Provincetown, Massachusetts, on April 8, 1982. Copyright, 1983, by The Journal Press.

POST-PUBLICATION ADDENDUM

By virtue of its origins in a very careful factorial study (Ray, 1982), the scale above does of course have unusually strong construct validity claims. Two subsequent studies have shown that it also has strong predictive and criterion groups validity. The most important predictive validity test for a conservatism scale is of course its ability to predict vote and the .39 prediction of vote recorded for the above scale in Ray & Furnham (1984) stands in very favourable contrast with the negligible prediction furnished on some previous occasions by other well-known scales of "Rightist" ideology (See Ray, 2003). The strong differentiation that the scale provided for a known group of conservatives (Afrikaners) in Ray & Heaven (1984) rounds off the so-far published validity data for the scale.



SCALE FORMAT

Replication is one of the cornerstones of science. A new research result will normally require replication by later researchers before the truth and accuracy of the observation concerned is generally accepted. If a result is to be replicated, however, careful specification of the original research procedure is important.

In questionnaire research it has been my observation that the results are fairly robust as to questionnaire format. It is the content of the question that matters rather than how the question is presented. It is nonetheless obviously desirable for an attempted replication to follow the original procedure as closely as possible so I have given here samples of how I presented my questionnaires in most of the research I did.



References

Ray, J.J. (1982) Authoritarianism/libertarianism as the second dimension of social attitudes. Journal of Social Psychology, 117, 33-44.

Ray, J.J. (2003) Van Hiel's psychology of conservatism. Article published on the internet only.

Ray, J.J. & Furnham, A. (1984) Authoritarianism, conservatism and racism. Ethnic & Racial Studies 7, 406-412.

Ray, J.J. & Heaven, P.C. L. (1984) Conservatism and authoritarianism among urban Afrikaners. Journal of Social Psychology, 122, 163-170.




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