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The Roots of Public Opinion toward New Social Movements: An Empirical Test of Competing Explanations

Robert Rohrschneider
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 34, No. 1 (Feb., 1990), pp. 1-30
DOI: 10.2307/2111509
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2111509
Page Count: 30
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The Roots of Public Opinion toward New Social Movements: An Empirical Test of Competing Explanations
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Abstract

The rise of new social movements in Western Europe has led to the formulation of several models that attempt to explain why mass publics support these movements. Macro models emphasize the social location (e.g., new middle-class membership or social integration) of individuals as a source of public support for new social movements; psychological models focus on postmaterial values or problem perceptions as explanations of why citizens support protest movements. Despite the proliferation of explanatory models, however, research in this area suffers two shortcomings. First, several models remain untested, leaving it uncertain to what extent they are empirically valid. Second, most of the models remain disintegrated. Analyzing public opinion toward environmental groups in four nations, this research employs a Eurobarometer (1986) to test and synthesize various models. Postmaterial values, left policy orientations, and the perception of national pollution problems have the strongest direct influence on public evaluations of environmental organizations. Attributes that reflect the social integration of individuals indirectly influence environmental group evaluations via psychological factors. New middle-class explanations receive no support from my analyses.

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