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CHAPTER 4 Stability and Change in Value Priorities UVIDENCE in the preceding chapters indicates that the distribution of value types is undergoing gradual inter-generational change; it also suggests that these value types resist change due to short-term fluctuations in the socio-economic environment. The two points are equally important. If there were not at least a certain amount of stability in the face of short-term forces, any longterm trends would be totally submerged by the impact of current conditions. While we cannot yet make direct measurements of long-term value change, we can look for indications of short-term change. In doing so, we must distinguish between two forms of short-term variation: (1) change at the individual level; and (2) aggregate change. I. INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL CHANGE Panel survey data are generally considered desirable in order to measure individual-level change. Not much panel data are available ; but the original four-item value priorities question was included in a German panel survey carried out in the Saarland in May, 1973, and again in May, 1974.1 A total of 1,307 individuals were interviewed at both points in time. If we group these respondents into three categories (Materialist, Post-Materialist, and 1 1 am greatly indebted to Max Kaase of the Zentrum fur Umfragen, Methoden und Analysen at the University of Mannheim for giving me access to the Saarland findings and for carrying out a number of analyses on my behalf. It turns out that the Saarland is not an ideal setting in which to test the stability of these items, for the population is heavily skewed toward the Materialist end of the spectrum. In 1973 only five percent and in 1974 less than three percent of the Saarlanders were Post-Materialists. This level is far below the proportion normally found in the West but it accords with the fact that the Saar is by far the poorest Land in Germany. Post-Materialists seem to be a rare, almost abnormal phenomenon in the Saar. This peculiarity in no way diminishes the general usefulness of Kaase's sample, but it obviously does limit the sample's utility as a gauge of value stability over time. 100 —Value Change Mixed), we find that 61 percent of those reinterviewed in 1974 place themselves in the same category as in 1973. This was a period of great change in the economic environment, but the 39 percent who shifted represent a disturbing amount of turnover. Some responses show substantially more stability than this. For example, 68 percent of the sample expressed the same political party preference in 1973 and 1974 (categorizing party into four groups: the Christian Democrats, Free Democrats, Social Democrats and non-partisans). Theoretically, value priorities occupy an even more central place in one's world-view than political party preferences and should therefore show greater stability over time. But realistically speaking, it is not surprising that the values indicator shows less stability. One is rarely called on to articulate one's basic values. But one declares oneself either a Republican or a Democrat repeatedly throughout life—and these labels are anchored by numerous group ties and social pressures. The fact that 39 percent of the sample shifted from one value type to another may reflect problems in measurement rather than the fact that deep-rooted values do not exist. For the stability of value types in the Saarland panel is weakest among those who are less educated and least interested in politics; it is decidedly greater among those who are more educated and interested in politics— probably because they have more facility in articulating their opinions and values. Precisely those groups which show the highest constraint among attitudes at a given time also reveal the greatest constraint across time. Our four-item index is clearly an imperfect measure of one's basic values. We should note, however, that it showed greater stability across time than most of the other items included in both surveys. The Saarland survey asked identical questions about twenty-nine basic attitudes in both 1973 and 1974. Five of them showed significantly higher stability than the values index. In order of descending stability, these items were: political party preference; self-placement on a Left-Right scale; two "political efficacy" items; and a question about virginity before marriage. Political partisanship repeatedly has been found to be an exceptionally stable orientation among mass publics, and Left-Right self-placement is closely related to it.2 One's sense...


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