Broken Contract? Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government

By Stephen C. Craig | Go to book overview

that the national government had gotten too powerful; in fact, they were the most likely not to have an opinion at all on the subject. Is this likely to change as the young mature? Only time will tell, but if their apathy about government power continues, they will forge a fundamental shift in political culture as older cohorts fade from the scene. American political culture has traditionally exhibited an open mistrust, or at least an ambivalence, toward centralized power. But that can change as younger cohorts come to dominate the political arena. As we have stated before,

Today, the ambivalence expressed by many Americans has become increasingly hollow. Ambivalence, or difficulty in choosing between conflicting options, makes sense in a nation with truly limited government, where citizens might be struggling with the choice of whether or not to extend government's hold on their daily lives. But when that government has grown to extend its regulations into all reaches of the private sector, economic and social . . . we are no longer talking about ambivalence but rather a distant angst. Americans are no longer struggling with a choice. They have made a choice, and it is in favor of big government ( Bennett and Bennett 1990, p. 137).


NOTES
1.
For further discussion, see Bennett and Bennett ( 1990, chapters 2-4).
2.
The Times Mirror data were released directly to us by the Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press. We wish to thank Ms. Carol Bowman and her staff for their assistance.
3.
Exact wording can be found in Ornstein, Kohut, and McCarthy ( 1988, pp. 117-134).
4.
Kim and Mueller ( 1978a, 1978b) provide good discussions of the different types of factor analysis and their uses. Factor analysis works by first obtaining correlation coefficients that describe how each of the variables is related to every other variable included in the analysis and then by proceeding according to a statistical algorithm to identify the dimension or dimensions that are initially hidden within the correlation matrix. Maximum likelihood factor analysis enables a researcher to test hypotheses about the number and nature of dimensions undergirding an array of variables. That is why it is called "confirmatory" factor analysis. When a factor analysis is rotated to a varimax solution, the dimensions detected in a correlation matrix are unrelated to one another. One problem the factor analyst confronts is determining the "solution" that best fits the data entered into the factor analysis. How many dimensions are there, and which items best belong to which dimension? Using the procedure recommended by Wheaton and his associates ( 1977), the best ML factor solution for both surveys identified three underlying dimensions.
5.
Anyone who wants to pursue the matter further might also want to look at a similar question appearing (occasionally) since 1964 in polls conducted by the Gallup Organization and by the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations.
6.
Question wording has varied slightly over the years; this particular version is from 1992. The biennial ANES surveys are conducted by the University of Michigan's Center for Political Studies and made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. We are responsible for all analyses and interpretations.

-44-

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