Probing the character of norms: A factorial survey analysis of the norms of political action

Guillermina Jasso, Karl Dieter Opp

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to contribute to the methodology for measuring norms; and second, to measure the norms of political action among a sample of respondents in Leipzig, in the former East Germany, in 1993. We highlight four aspects of norms: (1) polarity, whether a norm is prescriptive, proscriptive, or bipolar; (2) conditionality, whether a norm holds under all circumstances; (3) intensity, the degree to which individuals subscribe to the norm; and (4) consensus, the extent to which members of a society share a norm. We show how the factorial survey pioneered by Rossi (1951, 1979) enables development of procedures for measuring these four aspects of norms, and we carry out for the first time a factorial survey analysis of the norms of political action. The results indicate that prescriptive, proscriptive, and bipolar norms coexist, as do individuals subscribing to unconditional norms, conditional norms, and no norms at all. While over two-thirds of the measured norms are bipolar, a strong minority (almost 23 percent) are prescriptive; proscriptive norms, though less numerous than prescriptive norms, are stronger than prescriptive norms. Finally, individuals disagree on the content of norms.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)947-964
    Number of pages18
    JournalAmerican sociological review
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 1997

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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