The measurement of left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values: a comparison of balanced and unbalanced scales

Evans, Geoffrey A.; Heath, Anthony F.
May 1995
Quality & Quantity;May95, Vol. 29 Issue 2, p191
Academic Journal
In this paper we compare the performance of balanced and unbalanced Likert scales of two core dimensions of political attitudes: left-right and libertarian-authoritarian values. The balanced scales control for the effects of acquiescence response sets, whereas the unbalanced scales do not. Using data from two panel surveys, balanced and unbalanced scales are compared for reliability, stability and validity both with each other, and with other measures of political ideology and values (left-right self-placement and postmaterialism). Both balanced and unbalanced versions of the left-right and libertarian-anthoritarian Likert scales are found in be more stable and strongly associated with social characteristics than are the other measures The unbalanced scales have slightly higher reliability than the balanced scales, they are also orthogonal, whereas balanced left-right and libertarian- authoritarian scales are moderately correlated. Unbalanced scales also display a slightly stronger relationship with social characteristics, but they do not differ in their pattern of association with political preferences. Differences between balanced and unbalanced scales are attributed to the effects of acquiescence bias. This needs to be considered when using the scales for substantive analyses, but its effects are not problematic.


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