The Perception of Ideological Distance

Donald Granberg, Thad A. Brown

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Data from national election studies in Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.S. were analyzed to test hypotheses concerning the perception of ideological distance between parties and candidates. The first hypothesis, derived from Sherif's social judgment theory and Heider's balance theory, was of a U-shaped function between self-placement and the perception of ideological distance. This hypothesis, that extremists would perceive relatively greater distance than moderates, who in turn, would perceive more distance than centrists, was supported in data from each of the four countries. Moreover, this relationship remained significant in the regression analyses of U.S. data when a host of demographic and political variables were controlled. The second hypothesis, that voters would perceive more distance than nonvoters, was supported in bivariate analyses of U.S. data, but the relationship was not significant in the regression analyses. The third hypothesis was that people voting for a candidate outside the political mainstream would perceive less distance between the mainstream candidates than people who voted for the mainstream candidates. Data from the 1968 U.S. election did not support this hypothesis.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)727-750
JournalWestern political quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • IR-61350

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