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Department of Political Science

Elizabeth Connors studies whether political values can be reliable guides for political decision-making

Elizabeth Connors, assistant professor in the Department, examines how political values shape citizens making political decisions. This research titled "The Social Dimension of Political Values" was published in the journal Political Behavior.

Political scientists—and other passionate observers of politics—often worry about the ability of the average citizen to make reasonable political decisions in a constantly changing, complex, and manipulative political world. One relief from this worry has been the existence of political values—or basic beliefs about how the political world should work (e.g., equality, moral traditionalism). Scholars have long suggested that these political values can guide decisions, helping people reason through complicated political decisions and shielding the ordinary voter from manipulative outside influence (e.g., political elites, friends, family, the media). Believing that political values are fundamental political guides, though, rests on the assumption that they are stable and consistent across contexts. For political values to guide us, they must be the same when you are with your friends at a pro-choice rally as they are when you are with your conservative co-workers. In the article, though, Connors questions the assumption that political values are stable guideposts to politics and finds instead that people express political values not because they actually hold those values, but because they are products of their own social contexts. The research suggests that we cannot rely on political values to be the beacon guiding people through the complex political world. If we’re searching for reprieve from the worry that people are easily shaped by social cues, we must look elsewhere.

The article can be found here:

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