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501 Readings Week 4

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Conover, Pamela Johnston. 1988. The Role of Social Groups in Political Thinking. British Journal of Political Science 18(1): 51-76.

Research Goal: “Present a general Framework for analyzing when and how social groups influence political thinking, particularly the formation of preferences” (52). This results in the author’s cognitive-affective theory.

Review of Literature

Many concepts have been used in the study of social groups. They include:

- Group membership (52) – “’objectively’” belonging to a particular social group”

- Ingroup(52) – group to which a specific person is a member

- Outgroup (52) – group to which a specific person is not a member

- Group identification (53) – awareness of belonging to a group and psychological sense of attachment to the group

- Group consciousness (53) – “’politicized awareness, or ideology, regarding the group’s relative positions in society, and a commitment to collective action aimed at realizing the group’s interests.’”

- Group affect (53) – “positive or negative valence that an individual attaches to a group.”


Problems in existing literature on the political study of social groups:

- Too specific; only applies to specific groups or domains (54)

- Specialized theories are abundant and have been developed without clear delineation of their restrictions (55).

- A focus on cognitive or affective reactions to groups, with little attention to the interactions of cognitive and affective responses (55)

- Focus on ingroups people identify with positively and outgroups that people see negatively and a corresponding lack of the opposite: ingroups people see negatively and outgroups people identify with positively (55).

- Poor focus on measurement (55)


In a response to some of these problems, Conover specifies “a general cognitive-affective theory of when and how social groups enter into political thinking” (55). Advancing research on social groups because it (1) is “applicable across domains and groups,” “describes the interaction between cognitive and affective factors, and (3) “addresses the question of purpose” (55-56).


Conover’s model adopts an information processing approach which is base dupon three assumptions:

1. “People use previously stored knowledge to help them reach decisions and judgements as accurately and efficiently as possible” (56); schema. Four types of schemata are important to this model: self-schemata, outgroup schemata, ingroup schemata, and causal schemata.

2. “People are purposive in their thinking about social groups” (57), and

3. “affect matters in determining when and how social groups influence political thinking” (57).


Conover’s model

Four types of variables determine the role of social groups in thinking on political issues:

1. Biological, socio-biological, and cultural factors. Drawn from research in psychology, anthropology, and biology. People have a natural tendency to see things in terms of groups, natural tendency to favor an ingroup, especially in opposition to an outgroup.

2. Individual perciever’s characteristics. Background characteristics and personality traits influence perceptions on groups and situations, fundamental political values and basic political preferences can also shape perceptions.

3. Cognitive and affective factors evoked by the situation or issue. Issue framing by media and political figures can include cues that trigger schemata; and

4. Characteristics of the evaluative process. Self-interest and social norms combine with the group-related emotions to form an individual’s perceptions


In answering “when social groups influence political thinking” it is important to consider how issues are framed and the clarity and saliency of group clues evoked by the framing of an issue.

In determining “how social groups influence political thinking” the impact of ingroups and outgroups must be considered. “Outgroups are expected to influence political thinking primarily on those issues where the outgroup clues are clear” (65) and people are more likely to be sympathetic to ingourps than outgroups. Where both ingroup and outgroup clues are apparent, preference toward the outgroup may result where (1) group ID is weak, and/or (2) positive interdependence between the self and the outgroup or the ingroup and outgroup exists, and/or (3) social norms are very strong (66).

Conover then illustrates her model on the basis of several women’s issues. Conover identifies that women’s issues allow the study of the interaction of group ID and consciousness – in the form of feminism among women – and “positive emotional reactions to an outgroup” – in the form of men being sympathetic for women (66).

Data and Methods - Data collected in 1984 Pilot Study for the National Election Study - Four general classes of variables used in analysis: o Background variables – education, income, social class, maritial status, work status, race and age. o Political value and orientation measures – seven-point party identification, liberal conservative scale, individualism measure, and equality measure. o Group-related measures – some problems in measurement for these variables, oriented mainly toward opinions on working women. Affective reaction toward groups of women, ID with working women, interdependence with working women, and perceptions of discrimination were all attempted to be measured(see page 68 for more information). o Issue preferences – dependent variables with one general and three economic preference variables involving survey of opinion on how much effort and resources should be used toward three different women’s issues.


Findings and Conclusions

- “Political sympathy for working women is somewhat greater among women, and has different roots among men and women.” (76)

- Better measures are needed that more closely reflect the concepts under study.

- More broad analysis needed – measuring how people feel about many groups along many issues.

- Social group literature has the promise of providing insight on how to minimize intergroup hostility.



Gurin, Patricia. 1985. Women’s Gender Consciousness. The Public Opinion Quarterly 49(2): 143-163.


Group consciousness among women is difficult to establish. Many reasons may exist for this:

- In the U.S. “group-conscious beliefs among the deprived, subordinated social categories” is not promoted (144).

- Structural conditions that promote group consciousness are lacking among women – gender inequality is not as distinct as other forms of inequality, shared economic inequality is not distinct, values among genders are often similar and do not lend themselves to gender consciousness. Women’s relations with other women and men also inhibit gender consciousness among women. Gurin “examines gender consciousness in women, including trends over the 1970s into the more conservative years of the early 1980s” (146) and compares gender consciousness among women to race consciousness of blacks, age consciousness of the elderly, and class consciousness of the working-class.


Four main components of group consciousness derived from relative deprivation theory and solidarity/resource mobilization theory:

1. Collective orientation – “assumes that the group desires change in rank or power because wither it has been subordinated or its dominance has been challenged” (146). Gurin compares women to other sub-ordinate groups. Measured from responses to forced-choice questions that “probed views about action strategies women should follow to improve their market statuses” (148).

2. Discontent – “individuals’ discontent about the power of their social category,” drawn from relative deprivation theories (147). Measured “from evaluations of the influence of various groups in American society” (148).

3. Legitimacy of disparities – based upon the reasoning that “disparity will not be experienced as deprivation unless members believe it springs from illegitimate forces” (147). Again drawn from forced-choice questions, where respondents were “asked to identify the causes of gender differences in income, occupational status, and general position in American life” (149). Additionally measured through evaluation of questions asked about gender roles.

4. Identification – “reflects a recognition of shared values and interests that turns a category from a category to a collectivity” (147). Evaluation of respondent selection of “women” from a set of 16 category labels among which respondents were asked to select which they felt “close to” and then to choose one to which they felt closest (149). Data was drawn from three national probability samples of adults: the 1972 and 1976 NES, and consumer surveys from 1983.

Strength of gender Consciousness

- Comparison among subordinate categories:

       o	   Structural conditions constrain gender consciousness more than consciousness of other subordinate categories.
       o	Women ID with each other less that the other subordinate categories.
       o	Discontent and collective orientations are weaker among women than other subordinate categories.
       o	Legitimacy “was the one aspect of gender consciousness about which closely identified women were politically conscious” (151).

- Male-female consensus:

       o	Though women are “objectively deprived” (151) compared to men, men and women generally have consenting views. 
       o	Gender role (rather than gender) appears to differentiate perceptions about gender inequality. Employed women were “most aware of women’s collective deprivation in the labor market” (153). 

Trends, 1972-1983

- Identification: women shifted from non-identification to moderate identification in this time period, but those identifying women as the closest category to which they ID was stable.

- Shifts in the other measures were on average greater than for ID.

- Men’s shifts paralleled many of those of women’s.

Conclusions:

- “In most respects women’s gender consciousness has been relatively weak” (160).

- Political consciousness among women increased in the 19070s.

- “Men changed along with women” (161).

- While relative consensus exists among men and women, “gender patterns do suggest some tension in gender relations” (161).

- The legitimacy of men’s advantage is decreasing, both among men and women.


Tolleson Rinehart, Sue. 1992. Gender Consciousness and Politics. Taylor & Francis: 1-16, 145-167

Sue Tolleson Rinehart’s book explores the idea of gender consciousness to understand its existence and its role in shaping women’s political opinions. Rinehart identifies in her introduction the classic argument that debates the real or imagined similarities and differences between men and women and how these similarities and differences came to exist (nature vs. nurture argument).

Feminist arguments politicized this classic argument of gender to contend that women ought to participate equally in politics. Rinehart writes “Although they differ over the justification of the claim, the nature of the participation, and the purpose to which participation is bent, they share an extremely developed consciousness of the importance of gender to women as individuals and to society as a whole. Much liberal feminist theory is labeled reformist in its prescriptions, since it appears merely to advocate the inclusion of women in extant political and economic structures” (6). While different strands of feminism have their own unique articulations of participation, many feminists argue women are both “endowed with all of the necessary qualities of full participation” but also offer a unique and important contribution to politics as their opinions as an aggregate are different from the aggregation of male opinions” (8).

Rinehart defines gender consciousness as “the recognition that one’s relation to the political world is shaped in important ways by the physical fact of one’s sex, and feminism, regardless of the particular form it may take, is, at its root, a powerful manifestation of gender consciousness…. Embodies an identification with similar others, positive affect toward them, and a feeling of interdependence with the group’s fortunes.” (14). Because the study of gender in political science was disregarded for so long, it was unprepared to deal with the overwhelming female political activity that took place beginning in the 1960’s. Rinehart argues that gender consciousness can bridge the gap between feminist theory and empirical gender politics research as it can be used to understand these gender differences and how they manifest themselves in the development of political opinion (16).

Chapter 6 attempts to link gender consciousness with policy preferences as Rinehart expands on earlier research to understand how gender consciousness shapes political views (148). She suggests that “gender consciousness directs and constrains policy preferences” as a cognitive organizing device (149). Using other author’s previous findings including Conover and Gurin, Rinehart empirically tests gender consciousness using a set of identical measures of policy preference and finds gender consciousness does exhibit influence on policy preference and may be operating independently of ideology. She concludes by stating, “gender consciousness goes beyond feminism and so called women’s issues. I have emphasized that it should be thought of as a process, as difficult as that is to depict in empirical ways… we might say that consciousness is the “unobserved” connection between political engagement and political attitudes. In theoretical terms, consciousness represents the living intellectual and affective framework women use in order to make sense of the political world” (167)


Cook, Elizabeth Adell. 1989. “Measuring Feminist Conciousness.” Women and Politics 9:71-88

Cook asserts that the previous measures of feminist consciousness in the literature are inadequate as they contain problems of continuity and validity, and offers her own measure of feminist consciousness that can be used in all American National Election Studies. She defines group consciousness as a “politicized identification with a group of which one is an objective member and implies an orientation toward collective action to achieve the group’s goals” (71) and argues that previous researcher’s attempts to operationalize “group consciousness” in terms of the ANES has been unsuccessful. Cook contends that combining the feeling thermometer for the women’s liberation movement with the equal role scale will allow for the greatest external validity because “patterns of relationships between demographic variables and the proposed measure of feminist consciousness” are consistent with previous literature (83). She argues that this measure is most parsimonious and will offer the best method by which to track the development of feminist consciousness and political attitudes (86).

Gurin, P., Miller, A., and Gurin, G. (1980). Stratum Identification and Consciousness. Social Psychology Quarterly. 43:30-47.

Gurin, Miller, and Gurin (GMG) take up class consciousness, race consciousness, sex consciousness, and age consciousness with both comparative and class-sample approaches. They start by distinguishing between identification (a person’s relation to others within a stratum… awareness) and consciousness (a stratum’s position within society…beliefs and action orientations coming from that awareness of similarity). Relying upon Marx’s class consciousness (the identification of classes, ones location in that structure, and the recognition that one’s class interests are in opposition to other classes), GMG identify two elements present in the subordinate strata discussions of ethnic, race, age, and sex consciousness: power discontent and rejection of legitimacy. They also identify a collectivist orientation or the view that the best way to achieve a stratum’s interests is through collective action.

Operationalization: o Power Discontent: Represented when stated that one’s group has “too little influence” o Evaluation of Legitimacy: Cause of problem attributed to either “differentials to systemic obstacles and institutional arrangements (market discrimination, etc)” or “to personal deficiencies (ability, etc.).” GMG form three indices:  Legitimacy of race differentials  Legitimacy of sex differentials  Legitimacy of poverty Differentials o Collectivist Orientation: Identification with the preferences regarding collective and individual action of each stratum. GMG form two indices:  Advocacy of Collective vs. Individual action for blacks  Advocacy of Collective vs. Individual action for women

GMG also identify two objectives for their research, to examine: 1) determinants of identification, political consciousness and collectivist orientations; and 2) the role of identification and political consciousness in explaining the collective orientations of blacks and women. GMG find support for Hypothesis 1a (Blacks were expected to be more politically conscious and collectively oriented than whites; working-class workers were expected to be more politically conscious and collectively oriented than the middle-class), legitimacy was questioned along racial lines, but was not questioned more by either class. They also found support for Hypothesis 2A (Blacks were expected to be more politically conscious and collectively oriented than respondents in the other three strata; older people were expected to be less politically conscious and collectively oriented than women or blue-collar workers), save the observation that the consciousness of older people was stronger and women weaker than expected. (for specific findings upon strata lines, see 38-41)

Through their multivariate analysis, GMG conclude that: 1) Identification did not have a significant interaction effect with either of the two components of political consciousness in either strata. An additive model applied to both, but explained more variance in blacks than women; 2) The net effect of power discontent was significant for white women, while it was constrained in the black sample by a level of discontent that was nearly homogenous; 3) Legitimacy evaluation was the most important predictor in both cases (those who held structure responsible for disparities were most approving of collective strategies for redress); 4) Caveat…

In the end, they find that legitimacy is a critical aspect of consciousness. [Interestingly: The biases reported in the legitimacy evaluations (fundamental and actor-observer) both serve to facilitate the maintenance of privilege and power for higher strata, and for lower strata (a) the fundamental bias encourages them to accept responsibility for their disadvantage and retards the growth of their consciousness, (b) only to be outdone by the actor bias.]


Reingold, B., and Foust, H. (1998). Exploring the Determinants of Feminist Consciousness in the United States. Women and Politics. 19(3):19-48.

Reingold and Foust (RnF) start by questioning the extant literature’s reliance upon the theoretical assumption that group consciousness is a product of personal experience.  Guided by research suggesting that life circumstances play a small role in American political behavior, a distinction between group and self-interest (Thanks Conover!), and little empirical support that demographic variables have had little explanatory power, RnF begin to introduce ideological variables.  RnF assume that feminist consciousness is a consequence rather than cause of life circumstances, ideological predispositions, childhood socialization, etc…, and that “symbolic predispositions” are long-standing values acquired during socialization and are thus, prior to feminist consciousness and adult life circumstances, and construct a model employing cross-sectional data.   

Variables: • Dependent Variable: Feminist Consciousness Index (composed of feminist identification, emotional bond with women, status discontent, collective orientation). • Independent Variables: o ‘Life Circumstances’ (Direct experience: Marriage, number of children, etc…) o Socialization variables o ‘Ideological Predispositions’ o Propensity to think about politics in terms of groups

RnF then turn to outline the expectations set forth in Klein. After noting that they expect the structure of men’s feminist consciousness to be the obverse of those for women’s, they use OLS to construct five models (for each model see Table 1 (women) and Table 2 (men) 34-7).

RnF find that among women, the ‘ideological predisposition’ variables account for half of the variance explained by the full model compared to the small contributions of ‘Life Circumstances’ and Socialization variables. They also find that ideological beliefs provide the most explanatory value as determinants of feminist consciousness in men (‘Life Circumstances’ providing the least). However, women’s life experiences are slightly more relevant than men’s.

They end by discussing those results, and the limitations of their findings. They also ask if consciousness-raising based on personal experience may be occurring less frequently than in 1970’s and if personal experiences matter more to those ideologically predisposed to feminism. The point, it seems, is that it is important to realize: “… the development of feminist consciousness is not always a uniform, straightforward, uncomplicated reaction to personal experiences,” (43).

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