How Do Societal Norms Affect Attitudes, Beliefs, and Physical Well-Being?
Ideological norms are socially shared intergroup belief systems, viz., ideologies. Norms index ideological agreement in a population. Ideological norms can influence the ways in which individual-level ideological beliefs correspond to people's public policy positions. For example, in one study I have conducted, I examined how normative or contentious sexism is across 57 nations. I found that people's sexist beliefs corresponded to whether they believed abortion and domestic violence were justifiable. Sexist beliefs predicted the justifiability of abortion when sexism was normative, but sexist beliefs predicted the justifiability of domestic violence when sexism was contentious (a pattern of results I call the ideology/violence tradeoff). In another study, I found that people's anti-immigrant beliefs correspond to their opposition to immigration, but only when ideological beliefs concerning immigrants were normative. Many theories predict that when beliefs are contentious (i.e., non-normative), people are more likely to discriminate, and violence becomes more prevalent. Ideological norms are important moderators of individual beliefs and social policy attitudes.
The Need for Multilevel Theory and Methodology
To examine ideological norms, we must use multilevel theories and multilevel methodologies. Thus, every study I have conducted to examine ideological norms has used social dominance theory (which is a multilevel theory) and also multilevel modeling. Ideological agreement is operationalized as the variance in an ideological measure for each nation, group, or other collective. Low variance indicates that people agree, and high variance indicates disagreement. Multilevel modeling techniques allow us to examine multiple levels of analysis at once and to examine how these levels of analysis interact.