Identity Measurement in the United States

Awarded Scholars:
Amber Spry, Brandeis University
Project Date:
Feb 2020
Award Amount:

Conventional surveys assess race, economic status, gender, and religion in monolithic terms (by “box-checking”), leading researchers and policy makers to draw incomplete conclusions. People who are thus categorized in one social group may not share the same ideas, or express the same intensity of preference, as people who believe their attachment to the group is more central to their identity. Empirical strategies that account for the complexity and relative nature of identity can improve understanding of the relationship between groups and political attitudes in the U.S. where the dividing lines of politics are often along lines of identity. Political scientist Amber Spry will test an alternative strategy for measuring identity that allows respondents to self-identify with multiple groups by giving them a fixed number of “identity points” to allocate, at their own discretion, across multiple social categories, such as race, class, religion, gender, and partisanship. Spry will field the 2020 Identity Measurement Study through the Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (CMPS), a national survey of voters and non-voters on political and social issues conducted via the internet after each presidential election. CMPS datasets are available to the public. The random assignment of individuals to different measurement conditions will allow her to examine how these conditions might yield different outcomes on important identity-related questions.


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