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The Systematic Beliefs of the Mass Public: Estimating Policy Preferences with Survey Data

John E. Jackson
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 45, No. 4 (Nov., 1983), pp. 840-865
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2130415
Page Count: 26
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The Systematic Beliefs of the Mass Public: Estimating Policy Preferences with Survey Data
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Abstract

This paper develops and estimates a model that relates individuals' policy preferences to three basic terms: (1) a common orientation that affects positions on all items in an issue domain and that explicitly represents the constraint concept; (2) a question-specific term that represents the influence of impacts and interests associated with the explicit policy in question; and (3) party identifications. Each of these components is hypothesized to vary among individuals, based on their social, economic, and demographic characteristics. This model is estimated with the domestic policy items included in the first American National Panel Study (1956-60) using the LISREL statistical method. The results indicate the existence of a large and stable common orientation that strongly influences positions on the jobs, education aid, and health care items, but that is only weakly related to the power and housing item. The model also finds small yet significant policy-specific and partisan effects. The composition and influence of these components are quite stable over the four years of the study. Thus we conclude that the structure underlying individual preferences exhibits considerable constraint and stability, in contrast to some previous analyses with these data.

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