Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration (PhD)

Degree Level





Jason W. Ridge

Committee Member

Alan E. Ellstrand

Second Committee Member

Jonathan L. Johnson


business strategies, computer assisted textual analysis, corporations, economic values, free market orientation, political ideology, upper echelons


The executive political ideology literature suffers from a lack of conceptual clarity because social and economic issues are conflated. This has created an inconsistency in empirical findings with the theoretical predictions of the political ideology construct. In this dissertation, I identify a distinct economic component, free market orientation, based on support for economic individualism, competition, and property rights to reconcile these inconsistencies. Specifically, I argue that these indicators of free market orientation will have a unique impact on the way executives run their organizations. I develop a novel scale that measures CEO economic values that I term free market orientation and demonstrate its distinctness from a broad political ideology construct of CEO liberalism-conservatism. To do so, I conduct a content analysis of firm earnings conference calls to measure three indicators of free market orientation of CEOs – economic individualism, competition, and property rights. As an initial demonstration of the significance of CEOs’ economic ideology, in the sample of 140 CEOs who were appointed to their positions in years 2008 and 2009, I also develop and test the idea that CEOs’ free market orientation will influence their firms’ extent and type of income smoothing strategies, defined as an attempt on the part of the firm's management to actively manage earnings toward a predetermined target. Specifically, I argue that free market oriented CEOs are more likely to engage in income smoothing and choose income smoothing strategies with the least harm to shareholder value but of more risk to themselves – discretionary accounting accruals. Thus, by engaging in income smoothing and choosing among certain earnings management strategies (real activities, accretive stock repurchases, or discretionary accounting accruals), free market-oriented CEOs not only display their ability to take greater risks but also their focus on the primacy of current shareholder interests over that of other firm stakeholders.