It has been noted that oneís status in society
is closely related to oneís political views. Similar opinions on
political issues are likely to be shared by people belonging to
the same religion, race, gender, income group or social background.
7.3a Income and Education
Public opinion is largely governed by economic
or material considerations. When an individual comes to be identified
with an economic class such as a businessman or a worker he acquires
specific interests and loyalties. For example, programs dealing
with welfare and minimum wage increase will be more popular among
the lower income groups. However issues emphasizing work over welfare,
will find favor with the higher income groups who are concerned
with high taxes and their payment.
Generally, the highly educated group is part of
the higher income group. This group supports an internationalist
foreign policy than the lesser-educated Americans. And shows concern
towards the level of domestic expenditure.
7.3b Race and Ethnicity
Generally, racial and ethnic minority groups such
as African Americans and Hispanic groups, tend to support programs
promoting equality of opportunity in education, employment, contracting
and other similar affirmative action programs. However, groups
of European origin, tend to hold a conservative perspective on issues.
Ideology is a major force influencing public opinion.
Racial influences help in molding an ideological outlook, which
shapes a personís views on political issues and problems. The O.J.
Simpson trial case brought out important disparity between the perspectives
held by the African Americans and the whites. These views are related
to the judicial system and the role of the police. While the African
Americans felt that he was innocent, the whites believed otherwise.
It has been noted that religion has a distinct
bearing on public opinion. People are influenced by sermons and
symbols in Church. Attitudes on abortion as well as on gay and lesbian
rights may well be affected by religion. Issues such as the public
school prayer and state aid to parochial schools are viewed according
to the religious stand of individuals.
The political views of a person are definitely
influenced by the region to which he belongs. The large number of
military installations in the South found large support to the strong
defense policy in the region. Certain matters may be of greater
interest or concern to certain regions and will not create a similar
interest in others. Thus, the Midwest was concerned with agricultural
prices, while the Western states displayed more interest in water
rights and access to public lands. The sunbelt states have a higher
proportion of senior citizens who therefore have a greater concern
over issues relating to Social Security and Medicare.
Gender gap is a concept covering the different
political opinions held by men and by women, as also the relative
strength of the major parties among women voters. Issues such as
gun control, strong environmental laws, opposition to the death
penalty and support expenditure on social programs find greater
support among women. However, men and women hold almost similar
views regarding abortion.
Peopleís views regarding politics, have undergone
a change, owing to various events such as the Watergate and Iran-Contra
scandals, or frauds in the banking and securities industries. Congress
members who were frustrated with gridlock or the inability
have legislation moved, decided not to stand for re-election, during
the early 1990s. At times, the voter turnout for elections is also
affected by a change in public opinion.