Individual Opinions II GOVT311 Lecture 11
Definitions from Psychology • Values: abstract conceptions about how the world should be (sanctity of human life) • Beliefs: more specific than values, and attached to a specific object (belief on abortion) • Attitudes: external manifestations of internal values, more transitory than beliefs (attitudes on abortion laws, such as parental notification) • Norms: acceptable behavior in context • Culture: set of values and norms that are salient to a specific society
Translating Values » Attitudes • Value Hierarchies: personal assessments of what values are more important • These values are broadly limited by the context of culture • Value Ambivalence: when two values cannot be ranked (such as liberty and equality)
Do Value Hierarchies Exist? • Persons are asked to rank order Liberty, Equality, Economic Security, and Social Order, by successively answering pair-wise comparisons • Intransitive: when someone ranks Liberty > Equality > Economic Security > Social Order > Liberty • It turns out most people have a consistent ordering (N&W p. 187, 189)
Values, Ideology, and attitudes • Conservatives versus Liberals (N&W p.192): • More importance of liberty: conservatives • More importance of equality: liberals • More importance of social order: conservatives • Both value economic security the same • Persons who value liberty over equality prefer less government spending (an attitude) N&W p.196.
General Areas of Study • Social Welfare • Civil Rights • Foreign Policy • Social Issues
Pluralist Model of Government(Roots in Machiavelli) • Government Policy reacts to changes in mood of the public. • As new issues arise, groups organize around the interest, and pressure government. • The resulting policy is the summation of the different sides of public opinion.
Social Welfare • Excellent example of the pluralist model at work. Overwhelming numbers of persons expressed support for Social Security before it was adopted (89% in 1939). Same with collective bargaining for labor unions. • America is “ideologically conservative but operationally liberal.” There is general support for most social programs • People do distinguish between a “helping hand” and a “free ride,” showing considerably less support for programs such as food stamps.
Size of Government • Opinions tend to rise and fall with perceptions of direction of government policy. This fits well with pluralist theory. (F&Z p.131) • People generally support both government spending and less taxes. One study did find that when specifically asked about tradeoffs, people more often supported spending over tax cuts.
Public Health Care • Attitudes on health care vary by party (F&Z p. 134) • An excellent example of the ability of political elites to manipulate public opinion. The highest point of support for universal health care was in 1992, during Clinton’s highlighting of the issue during the campaign. Support fell in 1993 when health care industry launched an ad campaign in opposition.
Racial Issues (F&Z p.135) • Merle and Earl Black: The color lines • The outer color line: laws that specifically segregate. This line has been broached and vast majorities favor equal treatment under the law • The intermediate color line: • Integration of workplace and neighborhoods: About 80% of people approve of neighborhood integration. • Affirmative Action: marked decline in support for affirmative action. • The inner color line: A true color blind society at the personal level. Few Whites openly believe that African-Americans are intellectually inferior. • On “easy issues” related to groups, people tend to be more supportive of their “pocketbook”
Social Issues • Abortion: • There is overwhelming support for a middle ground on abortion (allowed in some cases, not in all cases, E&T p.143). • Opinions vary by frequency of church attendance. • Overwhelming opposition to gay marriage (not civil unions not a provided response category), opinions vary by party (F&Z. 143)
National Security • Attitudes on national security vary by party (F&Z p.146).
Foreign Policy • Internationalism versus Isolationalism • We are a more internationalistic society when threatened by foreign powers. The month before Pearl Harbor, 19% of people believed the United States needed to take action against Japan. • Defense Spending: • Reagan rode into office at the highest point of people saying that the U.S. spent too little on defense. Defense spending increased, and public opinion trended downward. Started rising again when Clinton began reducing defense spending at the end of the Cold War.
Ideology • Ideology distribution in 2004: • Liberal: 26% • Moderate: 33% • Conservative: 41% • Country became more conservative following the 1960s.
Presidential Approval • The Honeymoon: the period after the election where people generally approve of the new president because he hasn’t done anything to irritate people yet. • The Economy: for good or bad, the president is given credit or blame for the state of the economy • The Rally Effect: In times of crisis, people rally in support of the president