Kentucky Politics & Government: Do We Stand United?

By Penny M. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Political Culture and Public Opinion

In the broadest sense, Kentucky is dominated by a political culture that is highly traditionalistic. Variations and differences within the state are best viewed against this powerful traditionalistic background. This political culture emphasizes the purpose of government as the maintainer of the status quo, the existing social and economic hierarchy. Politicians come from society's elite and feel almost a familial obligation to govern. Ordinary citizens are not expected to participate in political affairs, or even to vote. Political competition tends to occur between rival elitist factions within the Democratic party rather than between two different political parties. Bureaucracy is regarded as suspect because it interferes with personal relationships. Government is viewed as existing to promote programs--programs that seem to promote the interests of the factions. In short, broad traditional political values prevail.1

Opinion in the Kentucky of the early 1990s continues to reflect the political culture of its distant past. The traditionalistic flavor of Kentucky's prevailing political culture was evident in responses to a broad statewide opinion survey conducted in the spring of 1981 by the University of Kentucky Survey Research Center (UKSRC). Only 28 percent of those polled answered "yes" when asked, "Would you describe yourself as a person who likes change in your life?" Almost three-fourths agreed that "People who know you" would "be likely to describe you as a traditional person." Only 28 percent of the respondents mentioned that they liked "a great deal of variety" in their lives, while 60 percent said they "like routine."2

Another related dimension of traditionalism shows up very clearly in the great pride that Kentuckians take in their state. In the same 1981 UKSRC survey, 45 percent of the respondents considered Kentucky as an "excellent"

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