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Values and Public Opinion. Andreea Moldovan and Alexandru Cernat. Ronald Inglehart. Modernization and Postmodernization. Modernization. Modernisation :

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values and public opinion

Values and Public Opinion

Andreea Moldovan and AlexandruCernat



  • “a process that increases the economic and political capabilities of a society: it increases economic capabilities through industrialization, and political capabilities though bureaucratization”
  • industrialization -> increase urbanization, occupation specialization, bureaucratization and higher levels of formal education -> mass political participation
  • Leads to richer societies
  • Shift from traditional to rational-legal values
  • Great predictive power
why the change
Why the change?
  • Diminished marginal utility of modernization
  • Bureaucratic institutions reached their functional and public acceptance limits (e.g., URSS)
  • Economic “miracles” and the welfare state -> Creation of new needs (post WW2 generations the first without survival needs)
intergenerational value change
Intergenerational value change

A combination of two processes:

  • Scarcity theory
  • Socialization theory
  • Postmodernization became predominant after the post WW2 children grew up

The result of :

  • conquering basic human needs
  • acquisition of wealth through industrialization

More emphasis on:

  • Individual autonomy
  • Diversity
  • Self-expression
  • Selective traditions and new myths are valorised
  • Quality of life over economic achievement
other effects of postmodernization
Other effects of postmodernization
  • The Risk Society -> risk is more dispersed and unpredictable
  • Losing important security enhancing institutions (e.g., religion)
  • Less emphasis and trust in politic and scientific authority
  • Decline in the importance of the family institution
postmodernisation and politics
Postmodernisation and politics
  • Long established political parties are eroding
  • Participation moving from voting to issue specific participation
  • Move from class-based politics to cultural and quality of life policies
  • Quality of life over economic growth as priority
prediction of postmodern theory
Prediction of postmodern theory
  • More PM values in rich and secure countries
  • More PM values for rich, secure and educated people
  • Prosperity -> increase in PM values and the reverse
  • When economic growth and security are growing there is big difference in values between generations
test theoretical model
Test theoretical model
  • Using 40 societies (70% of world pop.) in 25 years
  • Economic growth is conductive to subjective well-being until the point of diminishing returns
  • Cultures (survival strategies) reacts to change of context
converse theory about restrictions
Converse theory about restrictions

Converse’s perspective regarding constrain of the belief system:

  • Issue constraint (consistency between concrete issue positions)
  • Ideological constraint (relationship between abstract and concrete views)

Previous findings suggests lack of consistency and sophistication in the public

Problem regarding evidence so far:

  • Based on correlation
    • Not appropriate for constraints
    • Not appropriate for multiple dimensions
  • Hierarchical model of ideological constraint
data and measures
Data and measures
  • Random sample of adults in Minneapolis and St. Paul in 1981-1982
  • Sample size = 331
  • The public is more sophisticated and consistent than previously thought
  • Correlations between items are explained by the higher order factors
  • Correlations underestimate the degree of constraint

Other observations

  • General social moral attitudes not part of liberalism-conservatism
  • Racial and economic attitudes are not independent
values in britain
Values in Britain
  • Interested in “core values” or “belief system” and their evolution


  • Cannot be observed directly
  • Left-right measures versus multi-dimensional
  • We don’t know how they evolved in UK
value change
Value change

Although more stable than attitudes still interest in change

Models of change:

  • Core values remain the same: people move on a stable continuum (left-right perspective)
  • New values develop (e.g., postmaterialist values)

Mechanism of change:

  • Values are transmitted from elites to the public (Converse)
  • Change in younger generations (greater security in formative years) (Inglehart)
  • Diminished marginal utility for redistribution -> now argued as social justice (Inglehart)
proposed measure and data
Proposed measure and data

Measurement - two dimensional perspective (Heath et al., 1994):

  • Left-right (on economic power and equality)
  • Authoritarian-liberal (related to personal liberty)


  • British Social Attitudes series – 1986-2007


  • Confirmatory factor analysis
questions used
Questions used

Left-right scale:

  • Ordinary working people do not get their fair share of the nation’s wealth
  • Big business benefits owners at the expense of workers
  • Government should redistribute income from the better-off to those who are less well off
  • There is one law for the rich and one for the poor
  • Management will always try to get the better of employees if it gets the chance

Authoritarian-liberal scale:

  • Censorship of films and magazines is necessary to uphold moral standards
  • Schools should teach children to obey authority
  • Young people today don’t have enough respect for traditional British values
  • People who break the law should be given stiffer sentences
  • For some crimes, the death penalty is the most appropriate sentence
  • The law should always be obeyed even if a particular law is wrong
results changes in structure
Results – changes in structure

The items:

  • “Government should redistribute income from the better-off to those who are less well off”
  • “Management will always try to get the better of employees if it gets the chance”

are each significantly related to the authoritarian-liberal scale

Correlation between the two dimensions increases

- increased relationship between left and authoritarian

results changes in groups
Results – changes in groups

Change by party

  • Change of elite discourse does not explain change in structure

Change by age

  • No differences in age groups in structure

Change by social class

  • Logic of redistribution different for middle


so how do core beliefs and values influence political opinions
So how do core beliefs and values influence political opinions?

Policy preferences, performance judgements, candidate assessments are all political evaluations (Feldman, 1988)

These are made on the basis of a number of criteria such as self interest, group identifications and political events

So important to note that public attitudes are not completely structured by beliefs and values

origin of people s values and beliefs
Origin of people’s values and beliefs

Political culture

‘ set of widely shared beliefs, values, and norms concerning the relationship of citizens to their government and to one another in matters affecting public affairs’ (McClosky and Zaller, 1984)

Maintained over time by the persistence of institutions and policies and by the strong commitment of political elites

People acquire/absorb them through socialisation and continual reinforcement by the norms of society and the language of political debate


Three core beliefs (Feldman, 1988)

Support for economic individualism ( the belief that people should get ahead on their own through hard work)

Belief in equality of opportunity ( interpreted as formal or political equality rather than equality of results; derived from the individualistic tradition)

Support for the free enterprise system(generally accompanied by a distrust of big government)


The commitment to these beliefs is not uniformly distributed within the public ( McClosky and Zaller, 1984)

To the extent that such differences exist, they could help account for variations in policy preferences, political evaluations, and candidate preference

So rather than structuring specific attitudes around overarching ideological principles, people may rely on specific values and beliefs to make sense of the political world


To some extent, policies are judged right or wrong because of their implications for deeply held values

Values and beliefs do not form an integrated ideology- in the mass electorate they are only weakly associated with each other

Stability over time is a crucial element

Core beliefs and values have predictive power


Value choice and attitudes

there are meaningful individual value hierarchies

value preferences do have a direct impact on issue attitudes within the mass public


extreme variability in value choices

values do not seem to provide a general attitude formation routine for relatively unsophisticated citizens who are less attentive to ideological abstractions and other such political cues

analysts should be hesitant to grant core personal values any particular theoretical primacy within scholarly representations of political behaviour (Jaccoby, 2006)

1989 british social attitudes survey panel section heath evans martin 1994
1989 British Social Attitudes Survey – panel section( Heath, Evans, Martin, 1994)

Socialist/laissez-faire scale

Collectivism and individualism, government intervention and free enterprise, economic and political equality

2)Liberation/authoritarian values scale ( rather low internal reliability)

Freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of association, freedom to pursue one’s own course of life

socialist laissez faire scale items
Socialist/laissez-faire scale items

Ordinary people get their fair share of the nation's wealth

There is one law for the rich and one for the poor

There is no need for strong trade unions to protect employees' working conditions and wages

It is government's responsibility to provide a job for everyone who wants one

Private enterprise is the best way to solve Britain's economic problems

Major public services and industries ought to be in state ownership.

liberation authoritarian scale items short
Liberation/authoritarian scale items(short)

Young people today don't have enough respect for traditional British values

Censorship of films and magazines is necessary to uphold moral standards

People in Britain should be more tolerant of those who lead unconventional lives

Homosexual relations are always wrong

People should be allowed to organize public meetings to protest against the government

Even political parties that wish to overthrow democracy should not be banned.


socialist/laissez-faire values are more closely related to class, income and housing tenure

libertarian/authoritarian values are more closely related to age, education and religion

people with higher incomes tend to have laissez-faire values

because of the correlation between income and higher education, they also tend to have libertarian values rather than authoritarian ones


education, same pattern - people with higher levels of education tend to have laissez-faire rather than socialist economic values but libertarian rather than authoritarian moral values

church attendance, different pattern: regular attenders tend to have both laissez-faire and authoritarian values


Neither party identity, the postmaterialism indices nor the long libertarian scale show much difference in stability between the better and less educated respondents

The socialism scale and class identity show greater differences, but by far the greatest difference occurs with the abstract left-right scale, where the correlation between the two rounds falls to 0.41 among the less educated.


the socialism scale is strongly associated with Labour and Conservative preferences

the libertarian scale by comparison has weaker (although still statistically significant) effects on support for the parties


Party identification and core political values are central elements in the political belief systems of ordinary citizens

Are these predispositions related to one another? Does party identification influence core political values or are partisan identities grounded in such values?


Goren(2005) SEM to estimate dynamic models of attitude stability and constraint

Data from the 1992-94-96 National Election Study panel survey

partisan identities are more stable than the principles of equal opportunity, limited government, traditional family values, and moral tolerance; party identification constrains equal opportunity, limited government, and moral tolerance; and these political values do not constrain party identification


Much of past literature had been dedicated to explaining attitudes towards political leaders, preferences on issues of public policy, evaluations of government performance

More important: uncovering underlying principles that lend consistency and meaningfulness to public opinion

social constraint perspective
Social constraint perspective

Structure in mass belief systems develops as a function of social learning

Political elites organise political attitudes and beliefs into coherent structures for consumption by the public

The more people are exposed to them and the better they comprehend them, the more likely their beliefs will be systematically organised

so how do core beliefs and values influence political opinions1
So how do core beliefs and values influence political opinions?

Policy preferences, performance judgements, candidate assessments are all political evaluations (Feldman, 1988)

These are made on the basis of a number of criteria such as self interest, group identifications and political events

So important to note that public attitudes are not completely structured by beliefs and values