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Policy Mood and Political Sophistication: Why Everybody Moves Mood

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 May 2008

Department of Government, Cornell University
Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University


This article presents evidence that both micro (individual level) and macro (aggregate level) theories of public opinion overstate the importance of political sophistication for opinion change. It is argued that even the least politically sophisticated segment of society receives messages about the economy and uses this information to update attitudes about political issues. To test this hypothesis, the authors have used General Social Survey data to construct a 31-item measure of policy mood, disaggregated by political sophistication, that spans from 1972 to 2004. They found that all the subgroups generally changed opinion at the same time, in the same direction, and to about the same extent. Furthermore, they show that groups at different sophistication levels change opinions for predominantly the same reasons.

Research Article
2008 Cambridge University Press

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