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Reconsidering Ideological Lines: Beliefs about Poverty in America

Linda Burzotta Nilson
The Sociological Quarterly
Vol. 22, No. 4 (Autumn, 1981), pp. 531-548
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4106242
Page Count: 18
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Reconsidering Ideological Lines: Beliefs about Poverty in America
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Abstract

Our nation's policy to reduce poverty reflects the belief that poverty is caused by institutional discrimination. This study first identifies the ideological and political nature of this position in relation to the classically ideological individualistic and structural beliefs about poverty. Second, it tests a block variable regression model of popular support for the various belief sets to determine how deeply Americans divide along traditional ideological lines. This model includes not only objective status and demographic factors but subjective variables as well. The results indicate only shallow cleavages in beliefs about poverty and account for why previous studies found deeper ones. Support for the institutional discrimination position is especially broad and is independent of support for individualistic or structural beliefs. These findings suggest that this position and its policy represent a successful political compromise and a viable way for people to resolve their ideological inconsistencies.

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