British Journal of Political Science


The Role of Social Groups in Political Thinking

Pamela Johnston Conover*

This article outlines a cognitive-affective model of the role of social groups in political thinking. The model is based on the assumptions that people have stored information and emotional reactions to social groups, and that people are purposive in their thinking about social groups in the sense that they are interested in understanding what various groups have obtained and whether it is deserved. The process through which social groups influence political thinking varies significantly depending upon whether an individual identifies with the group in question. Generally, people are more inclined to feel sympathetic towards the groups to which they belong. These ideas are illustrated with an empirical analysis that focuses on women's issues and makes use of data collected in the 1984 National Election Study Pilot Study.


* Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, at Chicago, April 1986. The data analysed in this article were collected by the Center for Political Studies and made available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. I appreciate the helpful comments and suggestions of several anonymous reviewers and especially Lee Sigelman. Of course, I alone bear the responsibility for any errors of analysis or interpretation.