Public Opinion, Political Attitudes and Values
Political attitudes and value orientations are central components of people’s belief systems. They also play a central role in explaining political behaviour, notably as intermediate variables between social structure and political behaviour.
A value is an enduring belief that a mode of conduct or end-state of existence is preferable to another. A value is a prescriptive belief wherein some mean or end is judged to be desirable or undesirable. Values are sometimes contrasted with attitudes, which are often defined as a set of beliefs organised around a specific object or situation. A value is considered to be a basic (prescriptive) belief that often influences a specific attitude together with other beliefs. However, sometimes values are measured with a set of attitudes.
The impact of social structure and long-standing group loyalties on political behaviour has been weakened, and in some literature it is argued that attitudes and values have become more important to determine political behaviour. According to influential authors, new value and attitude conflicts are gradually replacing traditional social structural variables as explanations of political behaviour, or – in Ronald Inglehart’s words – there is a change from a ‘class-based to a value-based pattern of political polarization’.
Political values and political attitudes include ‘Old Politics’ orientations such as economic left-right and religious/secular values, and ‘New Politics’ orientations such as materialist/post-materialist values, libertarian/authoritarian values, ecology versus economic growth, and immigration orientations.
This section seeks to further explore the sources, nature and consequences of political attitudes and values. Firstly, we will investigate where attitudes and values come from and what factors shape them. What is the role of institutional forces (such as electoral, political, and party systems) and psychological forces (such as biology, emotions, health, and personality traits)? Secondly, we will examine the consistency and level of constraint among attitudes and values. To what extent are they structured together in a coherent fashion and stable over time? Thirdly, we want to assess the influence of attitudes and values on political behaviours. Compared to factors such as sociodemographics and mobilization efforts, how important are attitudes and values in determining whether an individual turns out on election day and which party he/she votes for?
This section should attract participants working in the fields of public opinion and comparative politics. Focusing on the comparative analysis of political attitudes and values, this section is likely to interest a broad range of scholars, working on both established, new and developing democracies.
Patrick Fournier is Professor of Political Science at the Université de Montréal. His research interests include political psychology, public opinion, voting behaviour, citizen competence, opinion change, and survey methodology. His work has been published in journals such as Acta Politica, Canadian Journal of Political Science, Electoral Studies, European Journal of Political Research, Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Political Psychology, and Public Opinion Quarterly. He also co-authored two books examining the potential and limits of citizens’ political capabilities. He was a team member of the Canadian Election Study (CES) for the 2004, 2006 and 2008 elections. He is principal investigator of the CES for 2011 and 2015.
Oddbjørn Knutsen is Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo. His research interests are in the field of comparative politics with special interest in Western Europe, political sociology and electoral behaviour, value orientations and ideology, and methodology and statistics. He has published extensively comparative articles in international journals on value change, value orientations and party choice, social cleavages and political ideology. He is the currently the chairman of the Norwegian Political Science Association and has been the chairman of the Nordic Political Science Association (NoPSA) (2011-2014). He is cofounder and co-convenor of the ECPR Standing Group on “Public Opinion and Voting Behaviour in a Comparative Perspective”.