Public Contributions to the Political Agenda: Political Values, Participation, Parties, and Elections
This chapter describes the status of the linkages between the government and people of West Virginia by examining the extent of West Virginians' political knowledge, their views on the state's political agenda, and their participation in political affairs. It also evaluates West Virginians' perception of the legitimacy of their state government as a force in their lives. Some information reported in this chapter comes from a survey of West Virginia residents conducted by the West Virginia University Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) in May 1992.1 Other data are from various polls conducted by the Ryan- McGinn-Samples survey research organization and released to the press as The West Virginia Poll. These surveys provide the only contemporary and empirically reliable evidence about the political values and attitudes of contemporary West Virginians.
A representative government presupposes that the public pays at least some attention to political events and demonstrates at least some confidence in its political leaders. If the public ignores political events entirely, it cannot make informed choices on election day. This, in turn, strains the connection between the citizens and their elected representatives and raises serious questions about the political system's legitimacy. The IPA survey results suggest that most West Virginians pay enough attention to political events to make at least partially informed choices on election day. Nearly all of the respondents indicated that they followed what was going on in West Virginia's government and public affairs either some of the time (46.2 percent) or most