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Patriotism, Politics, and the Presidential Election of 1988

John L. Sullivan, Amy Fried and Mary G. Dietz
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 36, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 200-234
DOI: 10.2307/2111430
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111430
Page Count: 35
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Patriotism, Politics, and the Presidential Election of 1988
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Abstract

Recent circumstantial and journalistic evidence suggests that the patriotism issue may have helped George Bush win the 1988 election. Yet there has been little systematic scholarly assessment of the role patriotism plays in U.S. electoral politics. While there is a small empirical literature on patriotic attitudes, researchers have not availed themselves of recent scholarly work that treats patriotism as a historical concept with contested meanings. Within the framework of a historical-conceptual understanding of patriotism, we used Q-methodology to collect data on patriotism perspectives from diverse groups of citizens and used the results of these studies to conduct an R-methodology survey of a representative sample from the community. Results of the survey show that people who understand patriotism symbolically, emotionally, or instinctively were particularly susceptible to George Bush's rhetorical appeals to patriotism and the flag. Indeed, these appeals had a strong influence on their vote choice, in favor of Bush. Voters who understood patriotism in alternative ways, however, were not induced by the Bush campaign's rhetorical strategy into voting for Bush for president.

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