Mass attitudes on political issues in Britain

Donley T. Studlar, Susan Welch

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Although there have been several studies of attitudinal constraint in the American public, similar studies for other political systems are rare. Using the October 1974 British Election Study, the authors examine the dimensionality of attitudes among the British public. Five major dimensions—labeled socioeconomic class issues, environmental issues, ethnocentrism, morality, and law and order—emerge, though together they account for less than half the variance in the opinion set. Little variation in these issue dimensions can be explained by regional, class, education, religion, age, or sex variables. Despite the complexity of British issue attitudes, socioeconomic class attitudes dominated the issue impact on voting behavior in the October 1974 election. These findings suggest that the image of British politics as strongly class-based may owe more to the actions of political party leaders in emphasizing socioeconomic class issues than to the existence of coherent class attitudes within the electorate. The fragmentation of mass political attitudes in Britain strongly resembles the pattern in the United States, despite differences in political culture and political institutions. Such fragmentation may be inherent in a liberal democratic political system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)327-355
Number of pages29
JournalComparative Political Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 1981

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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