Assessing the Stability of Value Systems in the Mass Public

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Principal investigator:

David Ciuk

Franklin & Marshall College



Sample size: 1268

Field period: 10/15/2010-11/09/2010

Psychological theory defines values as beliefs pertaining to desirable end-states that are ordered by relative importance, transcend specific situations, and guide evaluations of behavior and events. Scholars have recently started treating these definitional attributes as testable hypotheses rather than assumptions. This new research suggests that one of these attributes -- that values transcend specific situations -- may not hold. If not, it implies that values do not provide a single framework to guide behavior and that values are not as important as once thought. Values research now finds itself at an impasse where traditional theory may contradict empirical evidence. This study is meant to help bridge the gap between two schools of thought on this important issue.

1. Are individuals' value systems structured systematically?
2. Are value preferences susceptible to priming effects?
3. Does measurement technique affect the magnitude of these framing effects?

Experimental Manipulations
Respondents were split into two measurement groups. In the first, value preferences were measured with the method of triads. In the second, they were measured with traditional importance ratings.
Respondents were then split into three priming groups: (1) no prime, (2) equality prime, (3) economic security prime.

Rating/ranking of equality, rating/ranking of economic security

Summary of Results
Are value systems systematically structured? Yes, value preferences are highly transitive.
Are value preferences susceptible to priming effects? In both measurement groups, those that received the equality prime rated/ranking equality lower than those in other groups. There was no difference on economic security.
Are there differences in priming effects by measurement group? No.

Additional Information

The British data come from a major survey of foreign policy attitudes, funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (RES 062-23-1952), into which these and other experiments were embedded. By the end of 2012, the data will be archived and available via the Economic & Social Data Service (

Ciuk, David J. 2011. "Measurement and Value System Stability.'' Presented at the Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.
Ciuk, David J. 2011. Value System Stability in the Mass Public. Doctoral Dissertation.