An Alternative Analysis of Mass Belief Systems: Liberal, Conservative, Populist, and Libertarian

August 24, 1981 • Policy Analysis No. 3
By Stuart A. Lilie and William S. Maddox

This study, based on the 1976 Center for Political Studies Election Study, suggests that at least four different belief systems exist among the American public. We treat the dimension of government intervention in economic affairs as distinct from the dimension of expansion of individual liberties. The liberal supports govern‐ ment economic intervention and the expansion of individual liberties; the conservative opposes both. The libertarian supports expanded individual liberties but opposes economic intervention. The populist supports economic intervention but opposes expansion of individual liberties. Some 72.4 percent of the sample can be classified as holding consistent or nearly consistent political beliefs using these categories. The relationships between our ideological categories and demographic group‐ ings are generally consistent with expectations about these groups. We also explore the relation‐ ships between our classifications and ideological self‐​identification, party identification, and presidential vote.

About the Authors
Stuart A. Lilie
William S. Maddox