Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data

By Richard G. Niemi; John Mueller et al. | Go to book overview

1
Politics

To many people, surveys are synonymous with political polling and have been since the inception of scientific polls in the 1930s. It is not surprising, therefore, that there exists a considerable amount of over-time data about political subjects. The time series are especially long and complete with respect to party identification and the nation's "most important problem." But very interesting time series also exist with respect to voting for certain kinds of individuals for president on both general and specific questions of governmental responsibilities. An additional concept--liberalism/ conservatism--is mostly a recent discovery, though some early measurements exist.

Here we trace party identification in two series, the first beginning in 1952 and the second in 1972 (Table 1.1).1 For more than twelve years, through 1964, there was relatively little movement in the distribution. The number of "apoliticals" declined as blacks, especially in the South, began to feel more involved in the party system.2 but there were no significant changes in the proportions of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. By 1966, the number of independents

____________________
1
Gallup data extend back to 1937, and by using recall questions about changes in the past, partisanship has been reconstructed back into the 1920s ( Andersen, 1979). However, considerable caution is necessary in interpreting such extrapolations, because changes are often poorly remembered and because the recall questions tend to ignore changes involving the independent category ( Niemi, Katz, and Newman, 1980).
2
Prior to 1960, the partisanship question was evidently meaningless to as many as a fourth of southern blacks ( Converse , 1966).

-11-

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