Political Science and Psychology

Floyd Henry Allport
Syracuse University


THE observation that with increasing knowledge the demarcation between the various sciences tends to disappear is illustrated through the recent development of political psychology. This science deals with data which are commonly called political; but it deals with them from the viewpoint of a science of individual human nature. Such an integration of disciplines in a common field is the more impressive since it combines a "social" with a "natural" science, thus challenging the familiar distinction between these two types of discipline.

A glance at recent developments within these two fields will help us to understand the origin and possibilities of the new science of political psychology. Upon the side of political science there has come about a reaction from the description of political structures, departments, and constitutional rights and powers. An attempt has been made to probe the dynamics of political control, seeking causation, not in the modus operandi of government, but in the motivation of individual leaders or representatives of economic and other interests. The rôle of the average citizen in the political democracy has been subjected to damaging scrutiny. Fully as striking changes have occurred in the science of psychology. The emphasis in America has shifted from man as possessed of a stream of consciousness, containing inner perceptions, ideas, and feelings, to man as an organism adjusting his behavior by learning, thinking, and emotional reaction to the necessities of his environment, or so shaping his environment as to provide for himself and posterity new tools for the better satisfaction of needs. So long as the introspective psychology dominated, there was little chance of calling attention to the interrelations between human beings. The view-point was solipsistic, each individual looking within himself rather than toward the activities by which he stimulated, or responded to

(260) others. Stimulus-response psychology, however, in spite of admitted limitations, has led us to consider the behavior of human beings as stimuli to other individuals, or as responses to such stimuli. The result has been the rise of an objective science of social psychology. The behavior viewpoint has thus made possible a verifiable approach to political data. There is no check upon the inner experiences (thoughts and feelings) either of leaders or of the masses; but there can be made a verifiable estimate of their behavior, whether in the form of writing, speaking, nodding, forming organizations, or casting ballots.

In these mergings of the activities of psychologists and political scientists it must not be thought that the gain is entirely upon the side of the latter. Fields of human behavior are here explored which could never be known to the laboratory psychologist working only with the responses of the isolated individual. Even in the laboratory situation, the cultural patterns of habit, such as those of political behavior, are often a factor in the subject's response, whose influence the psychologist cannot estimate apart from a knowledge of the political culture of the group. The so-called "pure" psychologist can tell us how people think, learn, and experience feelings, in the sense of the mechanisms and processes involved in those acts, but he cannot tell us what people at large think (that is, common verbal stereotypes), what they feel (common, or public sentiment), or what common habits (cultural responses, customs) they have acquired. The approach to the latter phenomena, through the combined viewpoint of psychology and the social sciences, will, as Professor Judd has shown, enrich our knowledge of human nature itself.[1]

Psychological research in the political field, as in the social sciences generally, may be classified under two heads. The first may be called the "common segment" aspect, and the second, the "face-to-face" situation. These heads represent not precise divisions of subject-matter, but different phases of orientation to the common data. They are points of view which aid in theoretical analysis and bring to light strategic points of attack either for scientific investigation or for practical control.


In this approach we isolate and determine the distribution of a

(261) characteristic common to a large number of individuals in the designated political group. The feature selected might be near the biological level, such, for example, as the incidence of a disease, or the distribution of intelligence levels in a community or a country. Or it might be upon a sociological level, such as a classification ac-cording to vocational status, education, or income. Again, from a psychological viewpoint, we might select the incidence of certain political attitudes in the group concerned. How many people, for example, are inclined toward high tariff, prohibition, racial intolerance or militarism? What is the distribution of individuals who are members of, and loyal to, the Republican Party, the American Federation of Labor, or the Methodist Church? The determination of public opinion is a major problem of the "common segment" method. Group traditions, mores, and laws may likewise be viewed as widely distributed habits or "segments" characteristic of many individuals.[2]


The second approach to political behavior may best be defined through its contrast with the first. Human beings may be regarded not as bundles of segments which we may select at will for purposes of classification and control, but as integrated wholes in which each segment plays its part, in interaction with all the others, toward the vital economy of the entire organism. No one segment dominates completely in the biological and psychological organization of the individual. If one obeys the will of party leaders, it is only because, in some way, loyalty to this particular party has a value with reference to one's needs, interests, and point of view. Because of the uniqueness of an integrated personality the common segment view cannot be employed to exhibit it. The behavior here concerned can be shown only in the face-to-face contacts of individuals. Political relationships as seen from this approach are not groupings of common interests and attitudes, but reactions of individuals, considered as personalities, to one another. The chief

(262) problems illuminated are personal ascendancy and leadership social movements as expressions of personality, committee work discussion, and the emergence from such deliberations of new law and institutional patterns aimed at the resolution of conflicts.



A situation is rarely found which represents either a wholly, common-segmental relationship or a wholly face-to-face situation. Both forms are combined within the same individuals, and area distinguished not so much in the behavior presented as in our view toward that behavior. A good illustration is to be found in the' rise of Fascism in Italy. We have, on the one side, the peculiar traits of Mussolini's personality: his drive for power, his shifting political philosophy, his apparent shrinking from the examination of his inward nature, losing himself instead in the control of the outer environment, his virtual identification of himself with the state and the conception of a rejuvenated Italy. On the other side, we must consider the previously established institutions of central and local government of Italy, the nationalistic traditions, and the hero-worshiping tendencies of the Italian people. The two points of view are thus supplementary. For purposes of research and discussion, however, it is convenient to separate them. We shall discuss in this section certain phases of problems as viewed in terms of personalities and their face-to-face behavior and adjustments.

No satisfactory technique has yet been devised for the study of personality. The obvious approach would seem to be to divide the individual into certain traits and capacities and to attempt the construction of a test-scale for measuring each of these characteristics. Traits are here conceived to be basic and early-developed systems of habit. This procedure, however, has been fraught with so many obstacles that except for the measurement of scholastic intelligence and a few simple capacities, little progress has been made. We have still no adequate means of appraising an individual's degree of emotionality, ascendance, perseverance, objective- or subjective-mindedness, vocational aptitude, level of ethical conduct, character, and similar important traits. The difficulty has been due partly to superficial analysis and definition, partly to the unavoidable artificiality of the test situation in the attempt to evoke the basic responses of personality, and partly to the absence

(263) of available objective criteria against which to check the validity of the estimates given. As for the organic and physiological factors and their possible correlation with political behavior, though suggestive results have been obtained, we are even farther from practicable methods than in the study of behavior traits themselves.

The basic difficulty is perhaps not the lack of a measuring technique, but of definition. Is there really such a thing as a trait of personality? A certain form of behavior may be shown in one situation but contradicted in another. This fact shows the necessity of discovering more fundamental modes of response, not obvious on the surface, but underlying large sections of the individual's behavior, and explaining what seem superficially to be inconsistencies. We find, for example, such an apparent contradiction in the career of Theodore Roosevelt. How did it happen that a man bred in such an aristocratic tradition, and the advocate of power and the strenuous life, should appear as the champion of the common people in a new party organized against economic power and oppression? The contradiction seems to be resolved when we select as a basic trait, not Roosevelt's political philosophy, which may be largely a rationalization, but his life-long drive of struggling against obstacles. Originating in childhood in his fight against physical handicaps, this trait seems to have extended in later life to the conquest of wild animals, enemies in war, obstruction in Congress, graft in politics, and monopolistic control by the trusts.

The search for the fundamental trait shows the importance of a genetic study, following the individual's life back into the years of childhood. Systematic questionnaire studies may here be combined with a modified psychoanalytic approach. A challenge is thus given to the entire trait approach, considered as a measurement of characteristics seen in a cross-section of the life stream. If we had all the traits isolated and their degrees measured with accuracy, we should still be very far from the goal. We need also the longitudinal approach, which shows the origin and development of the habit patterns and enables us to predict their future significance in the personality. Of even greater importance, perhaps, is the fact that the longitudinal study reveals how the various traits and capacities function together, and which ones are more basic and prevalent in the behavior pattern than others. It shows, more-over, how excellence in one trait may compensate for defect in another, how plans of life are worked out which give all the traits

(264) expression, or how the failure to find such a career leaves some of them suppressed and involved in a condition of inner tension and: conflict.

Though we are still groping in the dark for a really scientific combination of methods, some light can be thrown by the techniques and interpretations now available upon the rôle of personality in public affairs. One might, for example, investigate the manner in which a leader possessing a specific pattern of personal' traits comes to be selected, as it were, by the circumstances of a, situation. The nomination and election of Warren G. Harding afford materials for such a study. Often the traits by which one climbs to a position of authority in the political scheme are widely different from those requisite for effective administration while in authority; and a period of failure and readjustment inevitably follows. There is frequently a discoverable relationship between dynamic elements of the leader's personality and his acts in office. The outlook of the executive upon life, and his peculiar drives, prejudices, and set of values help to determine the political and social products constructed by his administration. The civil and institutional reforms achieved by Gladstone are an illustration. The idealistic leaning of Woodrow Wilson, combined with his skill in the use of language, was a potent factor in building a structure designed to harmonize the nationalistic enmities of Europe and the world. An example upon the judicial side can be found in the personality traits of judges in the higher courts. In those cases where no clear-cut legal criterion exists for the decision, there can be found a constant though defensible and well-rationalized slant toward the social philosophy of the particular judge. Another problem capable of investigation links personality with the social psychology of prestige. It is interesting to observe which of the outstanding traits of a leader are used to create a popular "image" of the man, and to measure, if possible, the discrepancy between this social image and the true personality. There is, finally, to be considered the effects of a career upon the further development of the leader's personality. The situation reacts backward upon the individual; leadership is a process, not of one-sided control, but of give and take. The office of presidency, for example, helped Abraham Lincoln to resolve his inner conflict between humility and ambition by the expression of both these traits in his political acts.[3]


The study of non-official as well as official leadership is important for political science. Such leadership is exerted by the outstanding individual or the spokesman of public opinion. Opinion upon any public issue can be measured by presenting each individual in a chosen sample of the population with a scale of attitudes ranging from the logically extreme view on one side of the question to the logical extreme upon the other, and asking him to check the statement which most nearly expresses his own attitude.[4] Interesting distributions of opinion are thus obtained, reflecting sometimes strong agreement (a large number of checks) upon a moderate position, and sometimes the splitting of the mass of votes upon two or more steps of the scale according to alignments of interest or subjection to different species of propaganda. We shall return later to these distributions as measures of public opinion. At present our interest centers in the possible relationship between personality and the position checked upon such an opinion scale.

We are especially concerned with the characteristics of the person who chooses a statement selected by only a very few of the group and lying perhaps at one extreme of the scale, as contrasted with the personality of an individual choosing the attitude characteristic of the large majority. By using the percentage of individuals who fall in the same step as the person chosen, we may compute for that person an index showing his degree of typicality. The "typical" and the "atypical" upon any question form suggestive categories for studying the connection between political attitude and trends of the personality. Of especial importance is the question whether an individual is typical or atypical only upon a given question or upon the larger part of his social and political attitudes. That is to say: Is there a tendency toward individual constancy of typicality index for different issues? If so, the man with a high average typicality index might be regarded as a "political weathervane." He would be in high demand by all politicians desiring a short-cut to the ascertainment of public opinion. The atypical individual, on the other hand, would be important as an index of social change and as a means of suggesting the traits of personality one might

(266) expect in leaders of minorities and in social movements of the c lading order. Tentative studies have already revealed in the personalities of atypicals a high level of intellectual interest, an intensity of feeling, and a firm conviction of the truth of their atypical opinions. Investigations of the intelligence and emotional facto of atypical individuals have also been started. The scientific study of the typical and the atypical individual is thus clearly possible, and promises results of some significance for political science.

The difficult problem of radicalism, conservation, and reactionism lies largely within this field. "Radical" and "reactionary" names commonly applied to persons holding views of low typicality at respectively opposite extremes of the attitude-scale. Much theorizing has been done upon the motivation of these groups, an, some suggestive interpretations have been made showing the presence of emotional factors, rationalizations, projections, over-correction for feelings of inferiority, and other defense mechanisms.[5] A though we may be fairly certain of their existence in some cases, it is difficult to weigh scientifically the importance of these explanations. We are faced at the outset with a problem of definition. Do we mean, in calling a person a radical, that he possesses a radical view on a certain political question, or that he is a radical by nature a and will therefore express radical views on almost every question? Scientific caution would compel us to insist upon the first formulation and to refuse to speak (until further evidence) of a radical or, reactionary personality, but only of a radical or reactionary opinion as defined by political standards. It is commonly assumed that individuals are characteristically radical, conservative, or reactionary. This assumption must be tested. Although psychological differences have been suggested between conservative and radical thinkers, there is also evidence that the mere degree of typicality (regardless of whether reactionary, conservative, or radical) seems the more constant and significant category. The important question then arises as to what is the psychological nature of typicality? What are the personality traits of atypicals?[6]


Thus far we have considered mainly the estimates of factors making up personalities and the more general manner in which personalities fit into the social situation. The specific contacts between individuals are the media through which the integrated patterns of traits are evoked or given expression. In the free give-and-take of discussion the personality functions as a whole. In relation to leadership we observe, first, the more obvious complementary attitudes, such as ascendance and submission, between leader and followers.[7] Of especial, though neglected, significance, is social behavior upon a basis of equality rather than of subordination; as, for example, the deliberations and discussions in face-to-face groups. In the round-table, the arbitration conference, and the working committee, there arise peculiar and novel effects, amounting sometimes to social inventions. These conditions result from the evoking of trained habits of thinking in one individual by the stimulus of a different viewpoint formulated by another. Miss Follett has pointed out the importance of this process in the resolution of conflicts. Little can be accomplished so long as we consider conflict as a group-wise pitting against each other of two detached, segmental interests. The solution is to be found, not in the institutionalized (common segment) approach, but in considering the relation of the demands to the entire personalities from which they emanate. Through face-to-face discussion there may emerge a deeper, more personal significance of the demand, that is, what the disputant really wants; and upon such a basis we may proceed to a more fundamental and satisfying adjustment[8] An important task of the political psychologist is the revealing and measurement of these effects, and the suggestion of techniques for their more effective use.


Shifting our point of view now from whole personalities and their interactions, we shall consider those problems which can be under-stood only by seeing all the individuals of the political group oriented, not toward one another, but toward some situation com-

(268) - mon to them all; and exhibiting thereby the distribution of some common characteristic or mode of behavior. By far the most politically important type of common segment is that of opinion on public issues. Before we can analyze public opinion, however, it is necessary to give some attention to a more fundamental and biological characteristic, the distribution of native capacity to form opinions, to learn, and to solve problems — in short, the classification of the citizens with respect to levels of intelligence.
The development of tests to measure native capacity in school:"' children has led to the definition of intelligence in terms of mental age. Degree of intelligence is measured by rapidity of its development. When applied to adults, however, this standard and the tests based upon it become dubious. In the first place, native capacity probably becomes mature by a given age; hence, since each adult has reached what for him is the limit of growth in capacity; some criterion other than stage of development must be found for a comparing his capacity with that of his fellows. This task is extremely difficult, for adults are more highly specialized in their activities than children. Following, as they do, widely different vocations, there is no common situation or measure of success, as in the case of school children, which can be employed as a test. More over, there is no way of measuring the rôle of maturity and experience which, though not in itself innate, nevertheless sharply distinguishes one man from another and contributes to what we call the "intelligence" of his actions.
In spite of the many pitfalls of mental measurement, at least one conclusion of political significance is assured. Whatever the type of test-scale used, the population in any large sample arranges itself according to the probability curve of normal distribution. Those of mediocre attainment in the scale comprise the large majority or mode of the curve. Increasingly inferior individuals shade off in numbers at one end, as do the superior individuals or geniuses at the other. For this reason a "government of the people," so far as these tests may be taken as criteria, will be a government of mediocre laws, policies, and statesmanship. The theory which seems to underly American democracy is that no one man can be trusted to govern for the welfare of others. The people must govern directly by the means of majority assent; that is, there must be self-government. Between the safeguarding of public interest as the direct expression of the masses and the efficient administration of

(269) public affairs as the work of the intelligent few, lies the dilemma of the political scientist. The psychologist has done little to help him solve this problem, but he has drawn his attention sharply to one horn of the dilemma, and has taught him to become increasingly skeptical both of the political ingenuity and the quality of judgment to be expected at the hands of public opinion.[9]

Already critical of the much-used term "public opinion," political scientists are beginning to coöperate with the psychologists in the attempt to form a better definition and to devise, if possible, methods of measurement in this important field. The notion of public opinion has become entrenched not only in popular usage but in agencies of control, so that resistance is offered to an analytical approach. The labor of conducting adequate experiments is great. Only a few tentative researches upon method, mainly in connection with universities, have thus far been completed. Organizations for formulating and controlling opinion are flourishing in abundance; but the facilities for scientific study of opinion are hopelessly meager. The suggestions which we shall give here pertain chiefly, therefore, to future development.

The desired direction for the study of public opinion can best be indicated by contrasting two ways of dealing with it. The first is the traditional way, namely, that of the editor or campaign manager, the publicity director and spokesman. The other attitude is the scientific one, which shuns all popular appeal and works only through patient and tedious research. We shall call them for convenience the publicity approach and the scientific approach respectively. In the following summary of their differences the writer believes that a scientifically useful definition of public opinion will emerge.[10]

(a) The publicity method works through newspapers, political speeches, and various forms of visual and auditory propaganda, with the major purpose not of investigating public opinion, but either of creating it or of formulating an opinion alleged already to exist. The scientific method employs no organ for building up or

(270) controlling public opinion except for experimental purposes. Its purpose is purely one of investigating the present status of opinion.

(b)     The publicity method deals only with statements of content which are accredited to the majority of citizens in the political unit. This is accomplished through either (1) selecting that opinion Which seems likely to be accepted by the great number, or (2) creating by propaganda the acceptance of a certain stated opinion. The scientific process, on the other hand, deals not only with the majority acceptance but with the views of all minority groups as' well. It does not select a statement for majority agreement, but tries to give a comprehensive and accurate picture of the entire range of opinions at a given moment. 

The publicity man, in other words, asks the question, " What will the public agree upon?" And when he has decided this point to his satisfaction, he says, "This view is public opinion." The scientist, on the other hand, asks, "What is the opinion, or what are the opinions, of individuals comprising this public regarding this issue? If there is not complete agreement, in what proportion is acceptance distributed upon all possible attitudes which are relevant to the question? What are the geographical, institutional, or other differences with regard to acceptance of different proposals?" The publicist considers that without a goodly consensus or agreement there is no public opinion. For the scientist there is always public opinion (that is, opinions) so long as individuals are able to hold coherent views upon a question.

(c) The publicist uses the word "opinion" in the sense of the logical content of the stated view; that is, as the verbal presentation, or stimulus. The scientific student uses it to denote the attitudes and thought processes existing in the neuro-muscular pattern of the individuals making up the public. For him public opinion is in terms of response. 

(d)     As a means of ascertaining public opinion, the publicity view-point comprises two methods. The first is making a canvass of newspaper publicity, editorial opinion, public speeches, and political advertisement to which the people in a certain locality have been subjected — surveying, in other words, the local and representative centers for the formulation and control of opinion. The second means is the use of the straw vote or referendum ballot, usually to be answered by "yes" or "no," thus forcing the attitudes of the citizens who vote into one or the other of these categories. The 

(271) scientific approach, on the other hand, deals not with centers of opinion formation, but with individuals; and it deals with them by a more discriminating process than the use of the customary ballot. A scale is presented to the individual on which he is asked to check his opinion, not as merely positive or negative, but upon all the logically discriminable attitudes which one might hold upon the question. It is thus possible to measure the distribution of opinion among a sample of a mass of individuals and to indicate this distribution[11] numerically or graphically.

In discussing the values for social science to be derived from a technique of measuring opinion, the first to be mentioned is the substitution of measurement for guesswork. The merit of the scientific approach is that it enables us to ascertain public opinion directly and quantitatively rather than through the general impression of an editor or a leader who considers himself in close touch with public affairs. Due respect must be paid to the keen ability to sense public opinion that is possessed by many politicians. There is also perhaps some truth in Roosevelt's dictum that he knew what the American people were thinking, not through any mystical intuition, but because he himself was a typical American citizen. The scientist, however, wishes a more objective and verifiable method of measuring his phenomena. The publicist, thinking as he does habitually in terms of eliciting and molding opinion, may argue that no public opinion really exists until it is created through being publicly expressed. Since it has been his business thus to create it, he will maintain that he is in the best position to know what the public opinion is. This claim may be allowed to stand tentatively with respect to the publicist's own definition, namely, that public opinion is a statement which is accepted by the majority. It is obviously false, however, if applied to the scientific definition, since the latter is concerned with the distribution of differences of opinion as well as with the majority agreement. The argument that newspapers are so edited as to stimulate circulation and that

(272) editors are keen to sense the public acceptance, although true, does not cover the question. The factors involved are too complex. Newspapers may sell upon the basis of pictorial or sensational features rather than upon policies with respect to public issues.

But even from the publicist's standpoint of a consensus, we may deny that public opinion exists only when it is given expression. It is possible to have such an agreement without public expression having taken place. Suppose, for example, that in a large industry there is announced a probable lowering of the wages of all the workers. An issue would thus be created separately in the attitude of each worker, quite apart from any public agitation upon the question. If measurement could be taken at that moment, there would be found a practically unanimous agreement against such a proposal. It is true that situations of this sort are speedily taken up by agitators or "spokesmen"; and the factors of behavior in crowds enter to increase intensity of conviction and energy of action. The illustration, however, proves that there can be a strong alignment of opinion without external propaganda or control. It is such alignments that the scientific method aims to measure.

A second scientific ideal is ability to predict future events. In addition to propaganda and fortuitous happenings, there exist certain attitudinal determinants of the future opinions of individuals when they are confronted by a new situation. Propaganda cannot be implanted from a blue sky: it must work with habitual attitudes and sentiments already present. Long before prohibition became a wide legislative issue, many people were stirred by such stories as Ten Nights in a Barroom; while many had espoused individualistic philosophies with regard to governmental control over personal habits. Largely out of such raw materials the strong prohibition and anti-prohibition alignments of the present day have been builtup. A technique of measurement applied to these underlying attitudes may enable us to make intelligent predictions as to the future trend of opinion.[12]

A third goal of scientific measurement is that of control over social change. The knowledge necessary for control depends upon the ability to measure changes produced by carefully controlled experimental conditions. The measurement of change thus be-

(273) comes a question of fundamental importance. It is frequently assumed that one can determine the manner in which opinion has changed over a given interval by noting the changes in the editorial policies of newspapers during that period. There is, however, no way of knowing whether the change of editorial policy follows and depends upon the change of opinion, or vice versa. Does the news-paper editor create public opinion or merely express it, or perhaps both? There is no way of answering this question until the lay of opinion is actually measured before a newspaper takes up an issue, and a corresponding measurement made under controlled conditions after newspaper publicity has been employed.[13] Such methods should be used to measure the influence not only of propaganda, but of religious revivals, educational material, face-to-face discussion, and other agencies which affect wide-spread attitudes.

The situation, however, is made still more complex by the en-trance of another circular process. A number of authorities have included as a part of their definition of public opinion the fact that each individual accepts the stated opinion as the view also of his fellows. This acceptance operates psychologically as a kind of compulsion to strengthen and still further extend the acquiescence of the individuals concerned. Merely to express a view as the opinion of the majority is to produce through the impression of universality an acceptance of that view by many persons who would not otherwise conform to it.[14] Both editors and political speakers in their frequent references to the public play upon this susceptibility to the view of the supposed majority; and such appeals probably affect voting to a large extent. There occurs to the

(274) writer but one method by which this use of "public opinion" as a tool can be exposed, and the fictitious element introduced through the impression of universality separated from those genuine alignments which would exist in the absence of such devices. This method is the measurement upon an attitude scale of the opinions held by a sufficient sample of individuals, either (a) before and after the employment of the type of publicity just described, or (b) after the use of such publicity, with the added requirement in the scale for the subject to state the source of his convictions, and the part played in them by agencies pretending to express the "will of the majority." It is probably of greater importance than is commonly recognized that actual, discrete opinion be measured as accurately as possible, and that citizens, as a protection against certain forms of publicity, be informed of the distribution of this opinion.

Not only in the problem of measuring public opinion is thee opportunity for cooperation between political scientist and psychologist, but also in studying the psychological nature of opinion it-self. We enter here the field of verbal habits or, as Lippmann has called them, "stereotypes." All voting, except upon vital issues and alignments, probably rests upon this relatively superficial basis. One may study the formation of such stereotypes by the introspective method combined with a kind of psychoanalytic procedure. By discovering certain ideas, images, emotional biases, and previously formed convictions associated with a political attitude, one can often determine the source from which it was acquired, and may view the part it plays in the general pattern of thought and feeling of the individual. Stereotypes have been investigated in the fields of racial aversions, patriotism, and judgments of personalities by familiar outward signs. Tentative correlations have been made between the acceptance of stereotypes and intelligence and scholarship. Attitude studies for detecting proneness to "stereotyping" have been used to measure the success of political science courses in developing a critical habit of thought, and the transfer or spread of this tendency to new questions.[15]

The relationship of social and political attitudes to propaganda is a further subject for coöperative investigation. Thus far interest has centered largely on the materials of propaganda, such, for

(275) example, as stimuli for evoking instructive and emotional reactions, or the use of "colorful" words to arouse sentiments of hatred, repugnance, anxiety, approbation, or love. But here, as in public opinion generally, the study of the stimulus alone is insufficient. We need, as in public opinion, a measure of response tendencies before and after the propaganda has been brought to bear if we would understand its true significance.[16]

The negative aspect or absence of political opinions is a point of attack equally important to the student of a working government. Inertia or indifference, the most significant factor in non-voting, is usually due to the fact that the individual has not acquired attitudes of sufficient strength upon the question at issue to impel him to vote. Few persons probably have genuine reasons for not voting. Their negligence should be interpreted rather as the lack of reasons or motives for voting. The gap between political institutions and personal human interest cannot be bridged by appeals to civic pride, or by such questionable analogies as "training for citizenship," or developing a civic morale of peace comparable to that in war time. Insight and critical attitude can be fostered by schools and universities; but the most difficult problem is the establishing of a drive for participation in public affairs. The old "instinct pedagogy" has failed in this task. But perhaps the difficulty lies not with our educational methods, but with the nature of the social order which these methods are expected to implant in the individual. So long as the political process abstracts only one relatively unimportant segment of the individual's life, holding it aloof from the rest of his personality, indifference to politics will remain.

There remains to be suggested a phase of the common segment approach which opens a new and an extensive field to the student of political behavior. The political order comprises not only similarity of stereotypes, beliefs, and opinions, but also common ways of behaving in the more stable relationships of life. All citizens react in a relatively fixed and predictable manner with reference to a policeman, a traffic signal, a tax collector, or the ex-

(276) change in labor or commodities which they expect for a dollar bill. Not only does each one respond in a regular and predictable manner toward such objects, but each knows that others may be depended upon to behave in the same way. Social organization, and the rise of political and economic institutions, are thus made possible. It might even be said that these common habits of response underlying ordered relationships, considered together with their appropriate stimuli, are the institutions of society.

Let us take, for example, the notion of law. From the psycho-logical standpoint law is not an objective fact or system which serves as a stimulus to which the individual reacts by obedience, and conformity. It exists essentially only in the attitudes of individuals who accept it. Their habits of conformity to a verbal code constitute the law. Individuals react not so much to the law, as with the law, in the sense in which we say a man lifts a stone "with»his hand. Law, and government based upon it, are psychological phenomena; they are imbedded in human behavior. A similar analysis might be made of all those "institutions" which have been traditionally considered as making up the "structure of society." Such structure is reducible to attitudes of individuals and variations in such attitudes, both as to content and as to degree of generality. Political psychology, therefore, implies a re-formulation in terms of individual human behavior of the hypothesis which has served as the background of much social thinking and investigation.



Psychologists and political scientists are beginning to join their efforts in analyzing the dynamic processes, rather than the con-figurations, of human life. In this chapter the writer has tried to state as he sees them the significant trends of this cooperative research, and to forecast some future possibilities. Political psychology rests, on the one hand, upon the study of the individual. It requires a deeper understanding and a clearer technique for the study of personality than exist at present. With progress in the study of contacts of personalities we may hope to increase our knowledge of leadership and of the face-to-face activities of individuals from which political processes emerge. In addition to

(277) this, the political psychologist must study, not individuals as wholes, but those common segments of ability or behavior characteristic of large numbers of individuals. In the field of public opinion such work is needed to measure the data and check the generalizations of the publicity agent. The factors of individualized response in so-called public opinion should be separated from the influence of social pressures. Eventually the political psychologist assails the very mold in which political action is cast. Leader-ship, social movements, public opinion, discussion, legislation, citizenship — all activities through which government is conducted— are phases of human behavior. But more than that: government itself is behavior. Conceived as a structure, or an institution, it is behavior of a different sort from those more obvious and spectacular processes mentioned above: it consists of deeper, more stable, and more generalized attitudes. But it is, none the less, behavior. The formulation of political structure as psychological and as lying within the individual has implications both for social theory and for experiment.

If the reader up to this point has agreed in principle, one significant conclusion remains: It will be possible for political scientists to cease considering their field as one of formal description and legalistic philosophy, and regard it as a natural science. And furthermore, when so regarded, political science and behavioristic psychology become one and the same thing. While it is true that not all behavior is pertinent to political action, nevertheless all political action is behavior. There will, of course, be a difference of opinion as to whether the political scientist should accept a complete merging of his field with that of the psychologist. Many believe, and perhaps justly, in the existence of political facts per se and in an order of reality cast in terms of social and political structures. Perhaps they are right. If so, the foregoing analysis is still serviceable as a description of the same phenomena upon a lower, or psychological, level. Some persons, however, will choose to discard the structural view as descriptively possible but as barren of promise for scientific understanding and control. These persons will see in the relation between political science and psychology not an overlapping but an identity.


General scope and methodology

Follett, M. P. Creative Experience. 1924.

Giddings, F. H. Studies in the Theory of Human Society. 1922.

Gosnell, Harold F. "Some Practical Applications of Psychology to Politics." American Journal of Sociology, xxviii, 1922-23, pp. 735-43.

Kallen, H. M. "Political Science as Psychology." American Political Science Review, xvii, 1923, pp. 181-203.

Merriam, Charles E. "The Significance of Psychology for the Study of Politics." American Political Science Review, xviii, 1924, pp. 469-88.

——— "Progress in Political Research." American Political Science Review, xx, 1926.

Personality, leadership, and the study of atypicals

Allport, F. H., and Hartman, D. A. "The Measurement and Motivation of Atypical Opinion in a Certain Group." American Political Science Review, xix, no. 4, pp. 735-60.

Michels, Robert. Political Parties. 1915.

Moore, H. T. "Innate Factors in Radicalism and Conservatism." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, xx, 1925, pp. 234-44.

O'Higgins, H., and Reede, E. H. The American Mind in Action. 1924.

Wolfe, A. B. Conservatism, Radicalism, and Scientific Method. 1923.

Public opinion, propaganda, and citizenship

Lippmann, Walter. Public Opinion. 1922.

Martin, E. D. Psychology (Lectures in Print), lectures 12, 13, 14, 16. 1926. Merriam, C. E., and Gosnell, H. F. Non-Voting. 1924.

Rice, S. A. "The Political Vote as a Frequency Distribution of Opinion." Journal of the American Statistical Association, March, 1924.

———  "The Behavior of Legislative Groups: a Method of Measurement." Political Science Quarterly, March, 1925.

——— "Differential Changes of Political Preference under Campaign Stimulation." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, xxi, 1926, pp. 297-303.

Wallas, Graham. Human Nature in Politics. 1908.

Willey, M. M., and Rice, S. A. "William Jennings Bryan as a Social Force." The Journal of Social Forces, xi, 1924, p. 3.

The psychology of political structure

Dunlap, Knight. Social Psychology, chaps. 5 and 7.

Ginsberg, M. The Psychology of Society. 1921.

Lippmann, Walter. The Phantom Public. 1926.

Pillsbury, W. B. The Psychology of Nationality and Internationalism. 1919.


  1. Judd, C. H. The Psychology of Social Institutions.
  2. The common segment notion is merely a somewhat broader statement for Professor Giddings' concepts of "likemindedness"and "pluralistic behavior." It conforms closely with the approach which he has developed in his book, The Scientific Study of Human Society. Professor J. R. Kantor has also employed this idea in his theory of "cultural reactions." Cf. his article, "What are the Data and Problems of Social Psychology," Journal of Philosophy, xx, 1923, p. 449, et seq. The common segment view covers most of the phenomena included by sociologists under the term "derivative" or "secondary group."
  3. The significance of the total situation in political and social life as shown through mutual interaction of its factors has been forcefully developed in Mary P. Follett's recent book, Creative Experience.
  4. Allport, F. H., and Hartman, D. A. "The Measurement and Motivation of Atypical Opinion in a Certain Group." American Political Science Review, xix, no. 4, pp. 735-60. Although this method has thus far been confined to experiments with college students, it may be possible to adapt it to larger and more diversified communities.
  5. Cf. Wolfe, A. B., Conservatism, Radicalism, and Scientific Method; Allport, F. H., Social Psychology, pp. 268—74; and Ogburn, W. F., "Bias, Psychoanalysis, and the Subjective in Relation to Social Science." Publications of the American Sociological Society, XVII, 1922, pp. 62—74.
  6. Allport, F. H., and Hartman, D. A., op. cit.; also, "A Technique for the Measurement and Analysis of Public Opinion." Publications of the American Sociological Society, xxxii, 1926, pp. 241—44. Moore, H. T. "Innate Factors in Radicalism and Conservatism." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, xx, 1925, pp. 234—44.
  7. Suggestive though somewhat fanciful interpretations of this relationship have been developed by the psychoanalytic school. Cf. Freud, S., Mass Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego, and Rivers, W. H. R., Psychology and Politics, chap. 2.
  8. Follett, M. P., op. cit.
  9. Cf. Goddard, H. H., Human Efficiency and Levels of Intelligence, especially pp. 95—128; Martin, E. D., Psychology (Lectures in Print), lecture 12; Brigham, C. C., A Study of American Intelligence; Gosnell, H. F., "Some Practical Applications of Psychology to Politics." American Journal of Sociology, xxviii, 1922—23, pp. 735—43; Lippmann, W., The Phantom Public.
  10. It should be borne in mind that the terms "publicity" and "scientific" are used in the following discussions to refer to methods, not to persons. A publicist may at times take a scientific attitude, and a scientist may occasionally employ publicity.
  11. The construction of these scales and the types of distribution resulting from their use have already been described in connection with the measurement of atypicality.
    In addition to the references there given, the following attempts at the use of attitude scales may be mentioned: Rice, S. A., "The Political Vote as a Frequency Distribution of Opinion." Journal of the American Statistical Association, March, 1924; Willey, M. M., and Rice, S. A., " William Jennings Bryan as a Social Force." The Journal of Social Forces, xi, 1924, no. 3; and the Syracuse University Reaction Study, prepared at the School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.
  12. It is, of course, conceded that propagandists may use these psychological determinants in ways which we cannot readily foresee.
  13. A few attempts have already been made in the measurement of opinion-change in universities. See Willey and Rice, "William Jennings Bryan as a Social Force," loc. cit., also Rice, S. A., "Differential Changes of Political Preference under Campaign Stimulation." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, xxi, 1926, pp. 297-303. Further development, however, is required both in the technique and in the resources for such investigations.
  14. To express this view in extreme form: If most of the individuals in a community could be made to believe that a certain opinion, x, is the opinion of the majority in that community, and if there is no possibility of individuals checking the truth of this assertion, then x will be likely to become the opinion of the majority. Public opinion may be said from this standpoint to be the opinion which the individual thinks is characteristic of the public. Attempts are being made to measure the specific extent of this influence in the Reaction Study-of Student Opinion conducted at Syracuse University. A general discussion of the "impression of universality" and "attitude of conformity" are given in the writer's Social Psychology, chaps. 11, 12.
    For an experiment to determine the effect of majority opinion upon judgments of value, see H. H. Moore's article "The Comparative Influence of Majority and Expert Opinion." " American Journal of Psychology, xxxii, 1921, pp. 16-20.
  15. Good general discussions of this field are to be found in Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion and Graham Wallas's Human Nature in Politics, part I, chap. 2. On the experimental side, consult Rice, S. A., "Stereotypes as a Factor in Judging Human Character." Journal of Personnel Research, v, 1926, no. 7.
    For an indirect, introspective measurement of the effects of propaganda, cf. Meier, N. C., "Motives in Voting, a Study in Public Opinion," American Journal of Sociology, x xi, 1926, pp. 199-212.
    For general references on propaganda the following may be consulted: Martin, E. D., Psychology (Lectures in Print), lectures 14 and 16, and The Behavior of Crowds; Dunlap, Knight, Social Psychology, chap. 8; Weeks, A. D., The Control of the Social Mind, and The Psychology of Citizenship.

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