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Does Political Sophistication Minimize Value Conflict? Evidence from a Heteroskedastic Graded IRT Model of Opinions toward Climate Change


When citizens hold multiple values relevant to their policy opinions, they might experience value conflict, value reconciliation or make a value trade-off. Yet, it is unclear which individuals are able to manage their multiple values in these ways. We posit a sophistication-interaction theory of value pluralism where the most politically sophisticated individuals are able to reconcile the existence of multiple values, thus increasing the stability of their policy opinions. We test this hypothesis using a series of heteroskedastic graded item response theory models of public opinion toward policies related to climate change. We find that people structure their policy preferences toward climate change policies in values toward the environment and the economy, but only the most sophisticated citizens are able to reconcile the potential conflict between these values.

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Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University (; School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University (; Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University (; Department of Economics, Colorado State University ( This material is based upon research conducted by the Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy at Texas A&M University and supported under award NA03OAR4310164 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or Department of Commerce. Corresponding author: Paul M. Kellstedt, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843-4348, USA. Email: Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: and online appendices at 10.1017/S0007123417000369.

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