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Public Opinion

Public Opinion. Factors That Influence Political Attitudes. Political Attitudes. Many factors—including family, gender, religion, education, social class, race & ethnicity, and region —all contribute to American political attitudes and behavior. Political Attitudes.

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Public Opinion

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  1. Public Opinion Factors That Influence Political Attitudes

  2. Political Attitudes • Many factors—including family, gender, religion, education, social class, race & ethnicity, andregion—all contribute to American political attitudes and behavior

  3. Political Attitudes • No single feature of an individual’s life explains all of that individual’s attitudes

  4. Family • Most important source of political socialization • Plays a major role in shaping political attitudes (especially party identification)

  5. Family • Polls show the majority of young people identify with their parents’ political party • Process begins early in life (by age 10 or 11)

  6. Family • Even though individuals generally become more independent as they grow older, the correlation between adult party id & the parents’ party is still very high

  7. Family • A more recent trend is a tendency for this correlation to be lower than it has in the past • Trend may be related to another trend: growing number of voters who call themselves “independents” rather than Democrats or Republicans

  8. Family • More politically active your family, the more likely you are to hold the same beliefs • Examples—Bush & Kennedy families

  9. Family • Most members of the extended Kennedy family are Democrats, and most Bush family members are Republicans • Relationship is weaker on specific issues (gun control, school prayer, etc) • Strong for overall political views & ids

  10. Gender • A person’s gender influences political views • More women consider sexual harassment in the workplace to be a serious problem than do men • More men than women tend to support military actions & spending in foreign affairs

  11. Gender • Party identification is also affected by gender • This relationship has shifted throughout the years

  12. Gender • In the 1920s when women first began to vote, they were more likely to support the Republican Party than were men • Some experts explain correlation by pointing out that Republicans tended to be more the party of “hearth and home”

  13. Gender • Tendency for women to vote for Republicans continued through the 1930s

  14. Gender • Although most women supported the Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), over his Republican opponents, the percentage of women supporters was lower than the percentage of men who supported FDR

  15. Gender • Trend held until the late 1960s (correlation reversed) • Since that time women have been more likely than men to vote for Democrats

  16. Gender • Change explained by the advent of the modern women’s rights movement & the Democrats’ tendency to support points of view women support

  17. Gender • Equal opportunity for women • Abortion right • Welfare programs

  18. Gender • On the other hand, some experts argue that Republicans are more concerned about defense issues, and thus attract more men to their party

  19. Gender • More recent gender-related issue has to do with male v. female support for women political candidates

  20. Gender • Although common sense may tell us that women would be more likely to support women candidates, the research does not show a clear correlation

  21. Gender • One problem is that relatively few women run for political office • Although their numbers have increased in recent elections, more women candidates run as Democrats than as Republicans

  22. Gender • It is difficult to know if the candidates’ gender alone affects voting patterns of women and men

  23. Gender • In the presidential election of 2004, the gender gap appeared to close somewhat

  24. Gender • Pollster John Zogby has pointed out that the gender gap in the 2004 pres election was not nearly so significant as the gap between married & unmarried voters

  25. Gender • He found that on most issues single v. married voters were often 25-30 points different • Single more likely to vote for Democratic candidate (Kerry) • Married voters more likely to support Republicans (Bush)

  26. Religion • An individual’s religion is a factor determining his or her political attitudes • Although the relationships are not as strong as they once were, patterns still hold

  27. Religion • Protestants are more conservative on economic matters (minimum wage, taxes) than Catholics & Jews • Jews tend to be more liberal on both economic and social issues (civil liberties & rights)

  28. Religion • Catholics tend to be more liberal on economic issues than on social issues

  29. Religion • Some research on fundamentalist Christians indicates they: • Tend to support more conservative candidates for public office • More likely to contribute to the Republican Party

  30. Religion • Conservative tendency is stronger for attitudes about social issues (abortion, stem cell research, etc.) than for foreign affairs & economic issues

  31. Education • A person’s level of education also affects political attitudes • Evidence provides conflicting results

  32. Education • In general, the higher the individual’s educational level, the more likely he/she is to hold conservative political points of view

  33. Education • However—many studies show that college education often influences individuals to have more liberal social & economic attitudes than they had before college

  34. Education • Studies show that: the longer students stay in college & the more prestigious the institution they attend, the more liberal they become

  35. Education • Reasons for this correlation are unclear • Some believe liberal attitudes of professors may influence students • Others believe that the differences are based on the characteristics of people who attend college v. those that don’t

  36. Race & Ethnicity • Much research has focused on the relationship between an individual’s race & ethnicity and her/his political attitudes

  37. Race & Ethnicity • Oldest & largest numbers of studies focus on black Americans

  38. Black Americans • Identify with the Democratic Party • Most consistently liberal group within that party

  39. Black Americans • Recent presidential elections, blacks have voted in overwhelming numbers (close to 90%) for the Democratic candidate

  40. Hispanic Americans • Much less research has been conducted with Hispanic Americans • Preliminary results indicate they too tend to be more liberal than the majority

  41. Black Americans • Tendency to affiliate with the Democratic Party • Correlation appears to be weaker than that for black Americans (Mexican, Puerto Ricans, etc.)

  42. Asian Americans • Limited amount of research on Asian Americans & voting patterns • More conservative than blacks or Hispanics

  43. Asian Americans • Attitudes of the various nationalities of Asians fluctuate widely • Korean Americans are more liberal than Japanese Americans

  44. Asian Americans • Overall, more Asian Americans voted in the 2000 presidential election for Al Gore (D) than for George W. Bush (R) • Influence of Asian ethnicity on political attitudes is still not clear

  45. Which regions in the U.S. are the most liberal? Least liberal?

  46. Geographic Region • South is the least liberal of the four regions • Midwest somewhat more liberal • East and West most liberal

  47. Geographic Region • People on either coast tend to be more liberal than those in the middle of the country

  48. Geographic Region • Generalization (problems) • Many Californians & New Englanders are conservative

  49. Geographic Region • Part of the reason for the trend is an urban/rural differentiation • Coastal cities populated by minorities, recent immigrants & members of labor unions

  50. Geographic Region • Cities in the “rust belt” of the Great Lakes region also tend to vote Democratic • Strong labor constituencies (union membership is strong)

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