Coppock, Alexander and Donald P. Green. “Do Belief Systems Exhibit Dynamic Constraint?” Working Paper.


As described in Converse (1964), belief systems are dynamically constrained if a change in one ideaelement causes a concomitant change in a related idea-element. While an enormous literature is dedicated to the study of static constraint (the extent to which individuals hold political views that ``go together’’), dynamic constraint is rarely studied, especially using experimental research designs. We offer a new formalization of the theoretical argument, evidence from survey experiments conducted with online convenience samples, a nationally representative sample, and a convenience sample of political elites, coupled with an analysis of aggregate time-series of opinion change across issue domains. Our results indicate that even among subjects whose belief systems are highly constrained in the static sense, a change in one attitude does not necessitate changes in related attitudes. These experimental results affirm and extend Converse’s thesis about the limited extent of dynamically constrained ideological thinking in the mass public.


Figure 5 from paper, showing strong effects of treatments on target issues and virtually no effects of treatments on nontarget issues.

Coppock and Green Figure 5