The attitudes we have toward a range of things are rarely held in isolation but form part of a pattern of attitudes that make sense to us, and often make sense to our families, friends and social groups. Sometimes we call these patterns or clusters of attitudes “ideologies”. The work ideology has also come to mean an extreme view, and sometimes when we say someone is “being ideological” we mean that as a criticism, but generally these days ideology can just mean a system of coherent ideas.
There are several scales used in social attitude research that are of an ideological nature. These include things like religious fundamentalism, authoritarianism. and social dominance. One of our contributions to the field recently has been demonstrating the need to tease apart one of these scales (authoritarianism) into different parts. This is important because we can come to the wrong conclusions sometimes if we put things together than don’t belong.
Our research in this area is interested in clarifying the nature of the ideological scales we use to make sure they do lead to robust conclusions, and looking at how these ideological scales match with the patterns of attitudes we hold to various social groups and social policies. In some cases we use our own model of contested social attitudes, and in other cases we draw upon models of generalised social prejudices.