About This Poll
How Survey Groups Were Identified
Seven values were used to identify factions within the Republican and Democratic parties. These were selected based on past academic research into political beliefs and values and interviews with political scientists and sociologists.
To measure support for these values, 2,025 randomly selected adults across the country were interviewed. Three to eight questions were used to measure each value. Here's a summary of the core values included in the survey and a representative question used to measure each:
Limited government: Americans have always believed in a limited central government, but they differ on just how limited government's role should be. Respondents favored a "smaller government with few services" by nearly two to one over a larger government offering more.
Traditionalism: Attitudes toward the nuclear family, gender roles, premarital sex, divorce and homosexuality divide traditionalists from nontraditionalists. The survey found that half the public believes an unhappy couple with young children should not divorce; slightly fewer believe such a couple should.
Moral absolutism: Absolutists believe certain things are always right or wrong and moral restrictions apply to everyone. About six in 10 don't believe "we should adjust our morals and values to a changing world," while the remainder say moral standards should change with the times.
Equality: The survey measured the extent to which people believe the country should pursue equality as a national goal. One question found that 44 percent agreed the country has gone too far pushing equality; 54 percent disagreed.
Economic individualism: Individualism measures the extent to which people think each person should make it on their own. Seven in 10 agreed that people who don't succeed in life "have only themselves to blame," while three in 10 disagreed.
Compassion: This moderates many of Americans' more individualistic tendencies. While more than four in 10 agree that it's best not to get too involved in other people's problems, the majority disagree.
Church and state: Americans generally believe in separating the two, but they disagree on how involved religion should be in politics. Just over half said it was important for religious groups to stand up for their beliefs, while nearly as many said such groups should "stay out of politics."
The nine groups were created using a statistical procedure called cluster analysis, in which people who gave similar answers to core-values questions were assigned to a group. This process was done separately for self-described Democrats and Republicans.
The survey was conducted July 29 to Aug. 18 and included 813 self-identified Democrats and 815 self-identified Republicans. The margin of sampling error for overall results is plus or minus 2 percentage points; for subgroups, it ranges from plus or minus 6 percentage points for larger groups to plus or minus 11 percentage points for the smallest group.
The Survey Team
These surveys are the fifth in a series of projects that The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University are conducting on contemporary issues.
Representatives of the three sponsors worked closely to develop the survey questionanaire and analyze the results on which this series is based. The Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation with Harvard University are publishing independent summaries of the findings; each organization bears the sole responsibility for the works that appear under its name. The Kaiser Family Foundation and The Post paid for the surveys and related expenses. The survey data will be sent later this year to the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Connecticut, where copies of the survey questionnaire and data will be available.
The project team included Richard Morin, Post director of polling, and Claudia Deane, assistant director of polling; Robert J. Blendon, a Harvard University professor who holds joint appointments in the School of Public Health and the Kennedy School of Government, and John Benson, deputy director for public opinion and health/social policy at the Harvard School of Public Health; Drew Altman, president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Mollyann Brodie, director of special projects for the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit organization that sponsors research into health care and other public policy issues.
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company