The Relationship between Cultural Values and Political Ideology, and the Role of Political Knowledge



Cultural theory maintains that four worldviews—egalitarianism, individualism, hierarchicalism, and fatalism—can be used to describe people and societies. We examine survey measures of two of those worldviews—egalitarianism and individualism—to understand their relationship with belief systems. Contrary to what one might expect based on the cultural theory literature, we find that people with low levels of political knowledge seem not to have coherent worldviews regarding these issues. In contrast, people with high levels of political knowledge respond to egalitarianism and individualism questions as if they were opposite ends of a single, liberal-conservative continuum, rather than two of four distinct worldviews. We conclude that cultural theory researchers should take account of the influence of political knowledge whenever they investigate worldviews.