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7.3 Social Background and Political Values

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.

7.3c Religion

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.

7.3d Region

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.

7.3e Gender

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.

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7.0 - Introduction
7.1 - How Public Opinion Is Measured
7.2 - Political Socialization
7.3 - Social Background And Political Values
7.4 - Political Ideology
7.5 - How Public Opinion Is Formed

Chapter 8

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