Like the relatively ubiquitous cultural phenomenon of the carbon footprint, we’re intrigued by the idea that each decision we make in response to a personal conviction we hold has an effect on another holder of a personal conviction. These effects can be obvious or imperceptible. We’re interested in expanding on an idea that we had in graduate school. Then, we had only the resources to study existing polling data. We could only form the outline of a theory we suspect is correct: that deeply held personal convictions can coalesce into self-reinforcing ideologies, and that these ideologies may interact in harmonious or harmful ways. We believe this data, given a large enough sample, can help us inform our public policy decisions without the need to resort to loaded terminology and value-biased polling.
We are seeking support for developing a web presence and sustaining a viral effort to reach individuals who can connect their ideological convictions in ways that are meaningful to themselves and social scientists. The data collection will be anonymous, but users will have the option to “share” their ideological profile on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook.
The web presence (mock-up to the left) will engage with users in meaningful ways by helping them define their ideology in terms of other users based on a number of targeted, outcome neutral questionnaires and personality tests. The first part of the questionnaire will ask questions on internal concepts of group membership, and the second part will ask questions about what ideologies complement or contradict the full expression of their personal convictions. The data will become more fine-tuned as participation increases. We hope to create an ideological map of participants with the ultimate goal of showcasing the role that convictions play in economic and political preferences of the sample population. This data will be of interest to social scientists who seek to take the existing data about individuals’ ideological self-identification and combine that with new data about individuals’ perception of the impact of complementary or competing ideologies on their own ideology. This impact of one’s own ideological profile on the ideology of others is what we’ve termed their “ideological footprint.”
We feel that many individuals have become frustrated by political, religious or socioeconomic labels. Ours is a culture of the sound bite, where major media outlets presume to make generalizations about entire sub-groups’ preferences and behaviors. We also feel that representation in policy-making is skewed toward these generalizations by all but the most specialized social scientists. In short, we’d like to merge participatory democracy with participatory social science. Our purpose is twofold. We hope to (1) help individuals understand their own individuality within imposed or adopted labels, and (2) display the larger impact of an individual’s ideology on others – their ideological footprint. While users’ answers will be 100% anonymous, they may choose to share their ideological profile and their ideological footprint with other fellow ideology-holders (all the rest of us!)