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CHAPTER 7 Political Cleavages in Industrial Society I. INTRODUCTION A. GRADUAL but deep-rooted and pervasive process of value change seems to be taking place in Western societies. What implications does this have for mass political behavior? Or rather, one might ask, does it have any such implications? In the light of a large body of empirical research it may seem unrealistic to even expect that an individual's value priorities would have much influence on how he or she votes. The landmark studies in voting behavior have emphasized the extent to which social background variables (and political party identification in particular) are the dominant influences on electoral choice. What inherited political loyalties and social milieu fail to explain can largely be attributed to candidate perceptions (or misperceptions) rather than issues.1 The relatively minor role played by political attitudes might be attributed to the fact that, among the mass public , they seem to be vague and unstructured, and lack stability over time.2 If there is little linkage between voting behavior and issuepreferences , we might expect to find an even weaker relationship with one's underlying values. Materialist values reflect a relatively strong attachment to maintaining order and preserving economic gains. Post-Materialist values emphasize individual self-expression and achieving a more participant, less hierarchical society. Western nations have been 1 See Paul F. Lazarsfeld et al., The People's Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign (New York: Columbia University Press, 1944); Bernard Berelson et al., Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954); and Angus E. Campbell et al., The American Voter (New York: Wiley, 1960); and Donald E. Stokes, "Some Dynamic Elements of Contests for the Presidency," American Political Science Review, 60, 1 (March, 1966), 19-28. 2 See Philip E. Converse, "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics," in David E. Apter (ed.), Ideology and Discontent (New York: Free Press, 1964), 202-261. 180 — Political Cleavages successful in achieving economic growth during the past couple of decades, but they have given relatively little attention to the attainment of Post-Materialist goals. We might, therefore, expect Materialists to be more likely to support the established order, and Post-Materialists to be relatively change-oriented. On the other hand, Materialists tend to be recruited from lower income groups, which traditionally have supported the Left— while the Post-Materialists come mainly from middle-class families , which generally have been more likely to support conservative parties. Social class background might neutralize any tendency for Post-Materialist values to be linked with support for changeoriented parties. Moreover, while average income levels have risen, relative shares have changed very little. If shares are crucial to the public rather than levels, economic growth might have had little impact on traditional voting patterns. Furthermore, political behavior does not occur in a vacuum; it is shaped in crucial ways by the political context in which one lives. Even when the public does have relatively strong policy preferences and potentially could engage in policy-voting (as may be increasingly true in the United States), they may be unable to do so because the major party candidates adopt TweedledeeTweedledum positions on the key issues. If there is not any perceptible policy difference between the alternatives offered them, the public's voting behavior can not be greatly influenced by values or attitudes. For this reason, the stand one took on American involvement in Vietnam apparently had little impact on whether one voted for Nixon or Humphrey in 1968. On the other hand, in 1972 there was a clear-cut difference between the positions of McGovern and Nixon—and a powerful relationship between how the American electorate felt about the issues they contested and how they voted.3 3 See Benjamin I. Page and Richard A. Brody, "Policy Voting and the Electoral Process: The Vietnam War Issue," American Political Science Review, 66, 3 (September, 1972), 979-995. For related evidence, see Herbert F. Weisberg and Jerrold G. Rusk, "Dimensions of Candidate Evaluation," American Political Science Review, 64, 4 (December, 1970), 1167-1185. A number of scholars argue that issue voting became increasingly important during the 1960's, however; for an excellent sampling of this literature, see Gerald M. Pomper, "From Confusion to Clarity: Issues and American Voters, 1956-1968," American Political Science Review, 66, 2 (Iune, 1972), 415-428; idem, "Rejoinder," ibid., 466-467; Richard W. Boyd, "Popular Control of Public Policy: A Normal...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400869589
MARC Record
OCLC
933516258
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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