Broken Contract? Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government

By Stephen C. Craig | Go to book overview
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protest. For those who feel deprived of the equal coverage to which they feel entitled by the terms of the contract, violent protests may be seen as the only means of being heard by an otherwise deaf society. The costs may be great, but there may be positive consequences to these acts of violence if they serve as an effective vehicle for alerting others in society of their grievances. Of course, those who have reaped the benefits of this bifurcated contract will likely be more aware of the violence and destruction caused by the social protests than of the causes underlying it -- and they will tend to view the protesters not as rebels or insurrectionists but merely as criminals who openly violate one of the most sacred provisions of the social contract. To the extent that the larger society associates an entire group of individuals with violent protests, it may become even less willing to consider the legitimate grievances of those who engage in them. Such is the dilemma of race and the American social contract.


Funding for this study and for one of the surveys ( 1992) on which it is based was provided by the National Science Foundation (grant no. SES-9112799), which bears no responsibility for the analyses and interpretations presented here.

See, for example, John Locke Two Treatises of Government, Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, Jean-Jacques Rousseau Social Contract, and Richard Hooker The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity.
Although race differences in attitudes toward government are similar regardless of the level of government being evaluated, blacks' assessments of national political institutions vary to some degree according to the party controlling those institutions. See Howell and Fagan ( 1988).
In order to adjust for this disproportionate stratified sample, the data are weighted to reflect true population parameters. Additional details about sampling design and response rate are available from the first author upon request.
Our standardized measures were derived by subtracting the mean value of the observation from each value of the observation, then dividing the observation by the standard deviation. This yields a standard scale with a mean of zero and a standard deviation of one.
Comparing people of different races who live in mixed-race neighborhoods would not normally be possible because most urban areas are highly segregated, and therefore too few people of either race live in mixed-race neighborhoods to be included in a simple random sample. However, our sample was stratified to ensure inclusion of blacks and whites living in integrated neighborhoods in both city and suburbs, so this analysis and these conclusions are based on a substantial number of cases.
See, for example, Almond and Verba ( 1963); Campbell et al. ( 1960); Lipset and Schneider ( 1983); Baldassare ( 1985).
The reason for this may have to do with a genuine change in the responsiveness of Detroit's government to black citizens. More affluent and better-educated individuals normally should feet more personally empowered relative to government, since they command the skills and resources necessary to capture the attention of public officials. Yet more affluent and well-educated blacks were just the opposite -- less politically effica


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Broken Contract? Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government
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