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British Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology,1971, 10, pp. 79-80.

(With six post-publication addenda following the original article)

"A NEW MEASURE OF CONSERVATISM": ITS LIMITATIONS



By JOHN J. RAY

Macquarie University, Australia

Wilson &, Patterson (1968) have presented a conservatism scale having items in a new short format. This format is proposed as intrinsically more reliable and more valid. It is also said to be less susceptible to acquiescent response set.

A defect in its standardization is that none of the samples to which it was administered appeared to approximate a normal one. Most of the groups named appeared to have been contacted through educational institutions.

In Australia the conscription laws provide for a random selection of recruits bv a ballot procedure. The resulting sample is nationwide and hence ideal for social research. It is, however, limited to male 20-year-olds. To this sample a questionnaire was administered by uniformed Army psychologists as the "research project of a student at the Universitv of Sydney". It included the C-scale. Two hundred and seventy-six completed protocols were received from the October 1969 intake at Kapooka training battalion.

The questionnaire was identical to that presented by Wilson & Patterson (1968) except that the item `Birching' had been changed to `Flogging'. All odd-numbered items were reverse scored. During scoring a very notable feature was the great preponderance of 'Yes' responses.

The reliability observed (coefficient `alpha') was 0.63. This compares with 0.94 (split-half) reported by Wilson & Patterson (1968).

In a second check of the C-scale with 262 first-year psychology students (a sample more comparable to that of Wilson & Patterson) reliability was a reasonably satisfactory 0.83. The mean and standard deviation were 112.76 and 13.17 respectively.

It is concluded that the C-scale is not suitable for use with a sample randomly drawn from the general population. The lack of discriminating power of the individual items that can be noted from Table 1 is probably due to the low variability inherent in a strong acquiescent response set.

The item means of Table 1 are based on a scoring system of 3, 2, 1 instead of the original 2, 1, 0. It is normal practice in coding data on to computer cards to reserve zero for representing 'no response'. As needed, zeros can be transformed in the computer to the midpoint of the scale (as was done here).


Table 1. Item and scale total statistics for 276 Australian National Servicemen (All item-total correlations are corrected for spurious overlap. A high mean indicates low conservatism.)

Item............................Mean........S.D.....Item-total correlation

Death penalty...............2.36........0.48......0.059
Evolution theory...........1.55........0.50......0.132
School uniforms............2.78........0.42......0.286
Striptease shows..........1.30........0.46......0.262
Sabbath observance....2.44........0.50......0.199
Beatniks.......................1.66........0.47......0.402
Patriotism.....................2.57........0.49......0.027
Modern art....................1.36........0.48......0.170
Self-denial....................2.46........0-50.......0.165
Working mothers...........1.65........0.48.....-0.026
Horoscopes...................2.19.......0.39......-0.094
Birth control...................1.20........0.40......0.111
Military drill....................2.55........0.50......0.239
Co-education.................1.11.......0.32......0.146
Divine law......................2.42.......0.49......0.290
Socialism.......................1.78.......0.41......-0.017
White superiority............2.07......0.25......0.033
Cousin marriage.............1.66......0.48......0.223
Moral training.................2.82......0.39......0.163
Suicide...........................1.94...... 0.23......0.117
Chaperones....................2.21......0.40......0.159
Legalized abortion..........1.34.......0.48......0.365
Empire Building..............2.39.......0.49......0.045
Student pranks................1.64......0.48......0.240
Licensing laws.................2.70......0.46......0.027
Computer music..............1.64.......0.48......0.112
Chastity...........................2.38......0.49......0.199
Fluoridation.....................1.22......0.41.....-0.037
Royalty............................2.47......0.50......0.140
Women judges................1.35......0.48.....-0.108
Conventional clothes.......2.67......0.47......0.102
Teenage drivers..............1.13......0.33......0.134
Apartheid.........................2.08......0.28......0.061
Nudist camps...................1.37.......0.48......0.379
Church authority..............2.36......0.48......0.317
Disarmament...................1.57.......0.50......0.060
Censorship.......................2.14......0.49.....0.309
White lies.........................1.55......0.50......0.120
Flogging...........................2.17.......0.37.....0.070
Mixed marriage................1.26.......0.44.....0.174
Strict rules.......................2.36.......0.48.....0.197
Jazz..................................1.25.......0.43.....0.089
Straitjackets.....................2.32.......0.47.....0.002
Casual living....................1.16.......0.37.....0.188
Learning Latin..................2.28.......0.45.....0.113
Divorce.............................1.50.......0.45.....0.304
Inborn conscience............2.47.......0.50.....0.004
Coloured immigration.......1.43.......0.50....-0.014
Bible truth.........................2.52......0.50.....0.338
Pyjama parties..................1.21.......0.41.....0.241

Total scale.......................96.30.......5.17

REFERENCE

WILSON, G. D. & PATTERSON, J. R. (1968). A new measure of conservatism. British Journal of Social & Clinical Pstchology, 7, 264-269.

Manuscript received 13 March 1970

Revised manuscript received 31 June 1970


POST-PUBLICATION ADDENDA

1. The preamble normally coming before the items of the scale is:

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING DO YOU FAVOUR OR BELIEVE IN?
(Circle 'Yes' or 'No'. If absolutely uncertain, circle '?'. There are no right or wrong answers; do not discuss; just give your first reaction. Answer all items).

2. A negative sign in the "item-total correlation" column means that the item was anomalous -- i.e. it was responded to in the opposite way to that predicted by Wilson -- e.g. the item "Horoscopes" was coded by Wilson as an idea that conservatives would endorse but in this sample it was in fact more often endorsed by leftists (as defined by the total score across all 50 items).

3. As is shown above by the overwhelming rejection of liquor licensing laws and conventional clothes, the sample of young men surveyed for this article were in their way just as atypical of the community at large as were the samples employed by the authors of the scale. This does serve to re-emphasize how important it is to avoid unrepresentative sampling in studies of conservatism.

4. The article above is based on the original version of the scale but Glenn Wilson later revised it. The revised version (as published by NFER in 1977) comprised the following items:

Death penalty, birth control, evolution theory, coloured immigration, white superiority, self-denial, cousin marriage, Divine law, Bible truth, pornography, Jazz, disarmament, military drill, learnlng Latin, Royalty, Sabbath observance, legal abortion, computer music, Church authority, casual living, conventional clothes, women judges, fluoridation, patriotism, modern art, easy divorce, strict rules, school uniforms, corporai punishment, student pranks, miracles, licensing laws, socialism, teenage drivers, hippies, chastity, chaperones, striptease shows, straitjackets, white lies, racial segregation, empire building, moral training, mixed marriage, censorship, suicide.

5. It may be noted that there is only one item ("socialism") that can be construed as having reference to economic issues. The scale should properly therefore be referred to as a scale of social conservatism only. In addition, it should be noted that many users of the scale made further alterations to the item set to suit their local conditions and changing times.

6. Two later articles on the matters raised above are:
RAY, J.J. (1972) Are conservatism scales irreversible? British J. Social & Clinical Psychology 11, 346-352.
RAY, J.J. (1980) Acquiescence and the Wilson Conservatism scale. Personality & Individual Differences, 1, 303-305.




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