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Policy Ideology in European Mass Publics, 1981–2016


Using new scaling methods and a comprehensive public opinion dataset, we develop the first survey-based time-series–cross-sectional measures of policy ideology in European mass publics. Our dataset covers 27 countries and 36 years and contains nearly 2.7 million survey responses to 109 unique issue questions. Estimating an ordinal group-level IRT model in each of four issue domains, we obtain biennial estimates of the absolute economic conservatism, relative economic conservatism, social conservatism, and immigration conservatism of men and women in three age categories in each country. Aggregating the group-level estimates yields estimates of the average conservatism in national publics in each biennium between 1981–82 and 2015–16. The four measures exhibit contrasting cross-sectional cleavages and distinct temporal dynamics, illustrating the multidimensionality of mass ideology in Europe. Subjecting our measures to a series of validation tests, we show that the constructs they measure are distinct and substantively important and that they perform as well as or better than one-dimensional proxies for mass conservatism (left–right self-placement and median voter scores). We foresee many uses for these scores by scholars of public opinion, electoral behavior, representation, and policy feedback.

Corresponding author
*Devin Caughey, Associate Professor (without Tenure), MIT, Department of Political Science,
Tom O’Grady, Lecturer, University College London, Department of Political Science, t.o’
Christopher Warshaw, Assistant Professor, George Washington University, Department of Political Science,
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Replication files for this article are available at Caughey, O’Grady, and Warshaw (2018). We wish to thank the editors and three anonymous reviewers for their feedback, and particularly to acknowledge one reviewer whose detailed and extensive comments and questions pushed us to make major improvements to the paper. We are grateful to Elissa Berwick and Clara Vandeweerdt for their help extending the DGIRT model, and to James Dunham for his work on the dgo package. We also appreciate feedback from participations at the 2015 ECPR General Conference. All mistakes, however, are our own. Replication files are available at the American Political Science Review Dataverse:

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