The I-E scale, ideological bias, and political participation1


  • 1

    This study was partially supported by United States Public Health Service Grant MH-08062, principal investigator, Bernice L Neugarten (University of Chicago), and a University of Connecticut Faculty Summer Fellowship The author is indebted to Professor Neugarten for invaluable help in designing the study, especially the sampling procedures Rayman Bortner was of assistance both in helping develop coding procedures and in giving a critical reading of an earlier draft of this paper The author is also grateful to Eleanor B Luckey, Gilbert D Nass, and Albert S Dreyer for their comments and suggestions


This study was undertaken to examine ambiguities in the ability of the I-E scale to predict complex social behavior. An analysis of the items in the I-E scale suggested that the scale might contain a conservative bias Further, it was suggested that responses to the items may be determined by the individual's political and social ideology, which in turn are influenced by the political and social norms to which he has been exposed

The sample consisted of one parent and a college-aged child from 60 upper-middle-class families in which the parent was visible in the community for political and social participation, half the parents interviewed were liberal, and half conservative in their political views A number of measures of political and social participation were administered, along with a shortened version of the I-E scale

The findings of the study supported the contention that the “internal” items on the I-E scale are more congenial to persons holding conservative political views than for those holding liberal views. Perceived internal causality, as measured by the I-E scale, was found to be nonsignificantly correlated with any of the measures of political participation for the parent sample, with five of the six correlations being in the opposite direction from that predicted by social learning theory

The results of the study were discussed in terms of White's distinction between the “moralizer” and “reformer” approach to social problems The validity of the I-E scale as a measure of a stable personality trait was called into question, as was its usefulness in predicting complex social behavior