The Politics of Unreason: Right Wing Extremism in America, 1790-1970

By Seymour Martin Lipset; Earl Raab | Go to book overview
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Methodological Appendix to Chapter 11

The analysis of the various issue publics or typologies presented in Chapter 11 was first formulated on an a priori ad hoc basis. That is, we assumed from our knowledge of public opinion research and political behavior that there were two very distinct sets of attitudes or ideologies which are supported by very different types of people among the general public, although they often are found together in the program of various ultra-rightist groups. These are economic conservatism, opposition to the welfare and socialist state on one hand, and cultural conservatism, including support for traditional religious values and customs, opposition to people and ideas which are different, on the other. In general, as we have pointed out in various places in the book, economic conservatism correlates with socioeconomic status, the more well- to-do tend to be most conservative. Cultural conservatism tends to be associated inversely with education, the better educated are the most liberal. Since the better educated, on the average, are much more affluent than those with lesser schooling, this means, as we have seen, that the more well-to-do tend to be more liberal on cultural issues, as defined here. Many of the extreme right-wing groups, however, are ideologically conservative on both dimensions. They tend to favor laissez faire, to be opposed to welfare state measures economically, and also to be opposed to efforts to gain equal rights for minority groups or to defend the civil liberties of Communists, atheists, and other dissident minorities. This analysis of the opinion public situation within which the ultra-right has been operating led us to assume from the start that an analysis of the propensity of different groups in the population to back such groups would require a differentiation of the electorate into groups who were economically conservative or liberal, and culturally conservative or liberal, thus ultimately producing four attitude groups or issue publics, those conservative on both, liberal on both, and the two which were liberal on one and conservative on the other. Working

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