Models of attitude constraint in foreign affairs

Mark Peffley, Jon Hurwitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


A relatively recent innovation in research on attitude constraint is the specification of hierarchical models of mass belief systems, where general orientations are assumed to determine or constrain more specific policy attitudes. But while this research has been able to demonstrate a strong correlation between general and specific idea elements, the causal direction of the relationship has been assumed rather than tested. Using panel data collected during a period of constancy in the international environment, we attempt to untangle the causal ordering of general orientations and specific policy attitudes in the realm of international politics. In accord with hierarchical models, we find, first, that general orientations (e.g., militarism and containment postures) are more stable than many specific policy preferences (e.g., attitudes toward defense spending and U.S. involvement in Central America) and, second, much of the over-time consistency in policy attitudes is generated by these more general orientations. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of this work for studies of attitude constraint, one of which is the general applicability of the procedure for investigating top-down versus bottom-up models of constraint in domains outside the international realm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-90
Number of pages30
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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