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Ideology and Elites' Perceptions of the Safety of New Technologies

Eric Plutzer, Ardith Maney and Robert E. O'Connor
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 42, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 190-209
DOI: 10.2307/2991752
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2991752
Page Count: 20
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Ideology and Elites' Perceptions of the Safety of New Technologies
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Abstract

Theory: The policy learning and advocacy coalition framework emphasizes the importance of journalists and scientists, as well as policymakers, in models of the policy process. At the same time, research from several traditions suggests that elite opinion concerning the safety of nuclear energy, genetic engineering, and other new technologies derives primarily from political ideology. We examine the attitudes of three elite groups that influence policy governing new technologies. Hypotheses: Rothman and Lichter's provocative liberal bias theory suggests that environmental and technological issues are not, as they appear, technical policy issues, but proxies for older conflicts between left egalitarians and the corporate "establishment." They expect journalists to be most skeptical of technological safety claims because they are especially liberal and, in contrast, scientists to be free of ideological bias. Alternatively, differences among elite groups could be due to more proximate beliefs, socialization or self-selection. Methods: A telephone survey of random samples of scientists, journalists, and federal government policymakers provides data on attitudes towards new technologies, political ideology, and other characteristics. Ordinary least squares is used to estimate models. Results: Members of all three elite groups are subject to ideological bias in their assessments of technological safety. Yet, the small effect of profession remains after controlling for a variety of variables.

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