A wealth of comparative scholarship indicates that a transformation in the value priorities of Western publics has been occurring during the last quarter century, and that value-based cleavages are increasingly coming to structure Western political behavior. The United States, however, has been conspicuous by its relative absence from this research enterprise. This paper attempts to partially fill this void in the literature by examining the impact of materialist-postmaterialist value priorities on American political behavior. Using data from the 1972 through 1992 American National Election Studies, we first compare the impact of the value-based cleavage on partisanship and presidential vote choice to that of other relevant sociodemographic variables. These analyses show that the effect of postmaterialism on American political behavior is not negligible. When the parties take distinct stances on postmaterial concerns, value type exerts a noticeable, though not overwhelming, influence on partisanship and vote choice. Further analyses show that the effect of value priorities on electoral behavior is mainly indirect, as they significantly shape attitudes on defense and racial issues, which in turn influence vote choice. Surprisingly, however, value type is not related to attitudes on cultural issues such as abortion and homosexual rights. Thus, although postmaterialism does have some relevance for American political attitudes and behavior, it does not seem to be pertinent to the cultural conflicts that are increasingly salient to American political life.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 14, 2004
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