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Value Choices and American Public Opinion


  • Special thanks go to George Rabinowitz and Saundra K. Schneider; this project could not have been completed without their assistance. I would also like to thank Paul Sniderman for making me a part of the 1994 Multi-Investigator Study and for his continued interest in, and support of, this research. I appreciate very much the excellent comments and suggestions that were provided by Stanley Feldman, John Geer, George Marcus, Michael Martinez, David Peterson, Gregory Pettis, David Redlawsk, Darren Schreiber, Marco Steenbergen, Christopher Wlezien, the Politics Group of Nuffield College, Oxford University, the Fall 2003 New York Area Political Psychology Seminar, the University of North Carolina-Duke University American Politics Research Group, and the three anonymous AJPS referees. A report containing supplemental analyses and additional information relevant to this study is available on the author's website:

William G. Jacoby is professor of political science, Michigan State University, 303 South Kedzie Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824 (


Individual preferences among core values are widely believed to be an important determinant of political attitudes. However, several theoretical perspectives suggest that people experience difficulties making choices among values. This article uses data from the 1994 Multi-Investigator Study to test for hierarchical structure in citizens' value preferences. The empirical results show that most people make transitive choices among values and that their value preferences have an impact on subsequent issue attitudes. To the extent that citizens exhibit intransitive value choices and/or apparent difficulties in the “translation process” from value preferences to issue attitudes, it is due more to low levels of political sophistication than to the existence of value conflict.