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The Political Culture of Ambivalence: Ideological Responses to the Welfare State

Stanley Feldman and John Zaller
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 36, No. 1 (Feb., 1992), pp. 268-307
DOI: 10.2307/2111433
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111433
Page Count: 40
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The Political Culture of Ambivalence: Ideological Responses to the Welfare State
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Abstract

This paper explores the principles that people draw upon to justify their support for social welfare policy in the United States. The data for this study were produced by open-ended questions asked of a representative sample of the U.S. public. The results show that most people readily use values and principles central to the political culture when discussing their policy preferences. The wide diffusion of diverse values--individualism, humanitarianism, and opposition to big government--leads to significant ambivalence in people's discussions of their issue positions. The implications of these patterns of belief for popular support of the welfare state are discussed.

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