sniderman - 16 REASONING AND CHOICE i Heuristics in...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–3. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
16 REASONING A N D CHOICE i Findings such as these, repeatedly and vividly illustrating the threadbare infor- mational base of mass political opinions, have laid the foundation for a com- pelling model of belief systems. The major premise of this model - minimalism, as we call it - is this: Given that most citizens tend to know little about politics and to pay little attention to it, their opinions about it tend not to be neatly or consistently arranged. On the contrary, many of their political opinions are at sixes and sevens - so much so that their views about even intimately related issues may have scarcely anything to do with one other. Consistent with this, their reactions to politics tend to be capricious - so much so that their views about an issue at one election may have scarcely anything to do with their views about it at the very next election. Elsewhere we have surveyed the evidence for the minimalist model of public opinion (Sniderman and Tetlock, 1986~). Here we should like to comment on the minimalist model in broader terms, to assess it as a research program. Curiously, its most obvious feature has been its least remarked - namely, its irony. Converse's seminal article (1964) popularized the concept of belief sys- tems. But what, concretely, was the message of his research? Quite simply, that connections in mass belief systems were triply lacking: horizontally, between opinions on issues; vertically, between superordinate concepts like liberal- ism-conservatism and specific preferences on concrete issues; and temporally, between positions taken at differing times. The connections within belief systems thus triply severed, any given idea-element tends to have little to do with any other. In short, the seminal article that introduced the concept of belief system declared that the principal feature of belief systems is precisely the absence of system. Minimalism is thus a research program whose first step is also its last. How many times can one observe that mass belief systems are poorly organized? And having said this, what remains to be said? So far as minimalism is correct, with its emphasis on the tenuousness of connections between one idea-element and another, it makes little sense to study the internal dynamics of belief systems: To say, descriptively, that the constituent elements of political belief systems are only minimally connected is to say, causally, that each has minimal influence on the others. Nor, to put the point more broadly, does it make sense to suppose that the public reasons through its position on political issues - on the off chance it has in fact put together a genuine position. There is, after all, little reason to investi- gate how citizens figure out their views on the major issues of the day, if you doubt either that they have genuine opinions about many of them, or that their views about any one have much to do with their views about any other.
Image of page 2
Image of page 3
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern