Abstract: Do Political Ideology, Political Party Affiliation, Religious Affiliation, and Social Dominance Orientation Predict Cultural Competence? (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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326P Do Political Ideology, Political Party Affiliation, Religious Affiliation, and Social Dominance Orientation Predict Cultural Competence?

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Naeem Shaikh, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor of Human Services, Old Dominion University, VA
Jason Sawyer, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA
Background and Purpose: Cultural competence is a critical tool to inform effective social work practice across differences. There are substantial differences between social workers and the general population on political ideology, religious affiliation, and political party affiliation. Despite the pervasiveness of cultural competence in social work curricula, literature, and other professional initiatives, social work faculty, students, and practitioners face challenges in navigating differences in political ideology and religious affiliation. Social dominance orientation (SDO), i.e., an individual’s preference for hierarchies, has the potential to explain social workers’ motivation to empower clients and other important aspects of cultural competence. Yet, social work studies rarely explore the impact of political ideology, religious affiliation, political party affiliation, and SDO on cultural competence. This exploratory study aimed to address this gap by examining the relationship of these variables with social workers’ self-reported cultural competence.

Methods: The study utilized a cross-sectional design and hierarchical multiple regression as the primary statistical analysis. All 5195 social workers certified, registered, or licensed with the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers were solicited for participation by email. Data was collected online using the Qualtrics software. Cultural competence and SDO were measured using the Social Workers Cultural Competence Self-Assessment (SWCCSA) and SDO5 scales, respectively. Single-item measures and the Social Economic and Conservatism Scale (SECS) were used to measure four ideology variables, i.e., general economic ideology, issue-based economic ideology, general social ideology, and issue-based social ideology. Political party affiliation, religious affiliation, demographic, and practice-related variables were measured using single-item questions. Data collected from 497 respondents was analyzed to identify the predictors of cultural competence.

Results: Social work respondents generally reported high levels of cultural competence. Political ideology, political party affiliation, SDO, cultural competence training, age, race, and social desirability predicted cultural competence. In terms of effect size, cultural competence training was the most important predictor. Affiliation with the Republican Party and increasing liberalism on general economic ideology were associated with higher cultural competence. Being a racial minority, lower preference for hierarchies (SDO), and higher social desirability predicted higher cultural competence. Age was negatively associated with cultural competence.

Conclusions and Implications: By using a measure of cultural competence developed in the field of social work and identifying political ideology, political party affiliation, and SDO as new predictors of cultural competence, this study enhances the knowledge base in measuring and understanding cultural competence in social workers. The high levels of self-reported cultural competence among respondents may exemplify the profession’s focus on cross-cultural practice, but also highlight the importance of candidness while conducting self-assessment of competencies. Findings also support literature on the benefits of training in meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse client population. Results demonstrate the impact of racial identity and hierarchical inclinations on cultural competence, and challenge beliefs related to ideological and political party affiliation. There is a need to deliberate and further examine the challenges and benefits posed by these identities, preferences, and affiliations on social work practice, education, research, and the profession.