Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data

By Richard G. Niemi; John Mueller et al. | Go to book overview

Nor, by and large, have there been major shifts or notable trends in more atmospheric questions about the way things are going in today's world and about the general condition of society and of other human beings (15.10-15.18). However, a degree of cynicism about public officials grew in the 1970s and has receded somewhat since (15.14; compare Tables 4.1- 4.3), and there does seem to have been a notable drop after the 1960s in the degree to which people think that other people can be trusted (15.17).

In general, then, data suggest that one should be very cautious about assuming that rises and falls of angst as expressed by political and social commentators reflect similiar trends in the daily thinking of the broad population. For an individual, happiness and discontent may change over time, but in the aggregate these shifts seem to cancel out.

The chapter also includes data about group memberships covering the twenty-year period after 1967 (15.19-15.34). The tables document some decline in the number of people who are members of fraternal groups (15.19), political clubs (15.22), labor unions (15.23), and school service groups (15.26). There has been a possible rise in memberships in sports clubs (15.24) and a quite notable rise (perhaps not entirely beneficial) in memberships in professional or academic societies (15.32).2 Meanwhile, the popularity of hunting appears to be in decline (15.35).

On another issue, people report that they have been watching television and listening to radio about as much as ever (15.36, 15.37), but that they have been reading newspapers less often (15.38). Perhaps they never got the news of their various slumps into malaise.


REFERENCES

Andrews Frank M., and Stephen B. Withey. 1976. Social Indicators of Well-Being. New York: Plenum.

Baumgartner Frank, and Jack L. Walker. 1988. "Survey Research and Membership in Voluntary Associations". American Journal of Political Science, 32:908-928.

Campbell Angus. 1981. The Sense of Well-Being in America. New York: McGraw-Hill.

____________________
2
A recent critique of the membership questions ( Baumgartner and Walker, 1988) argues that they may have always underestimated group involvement but that underestimation has grown in recent years because of changes in the nature of voluntary organizations. (However, Baumgartner and Walker are in turn soundly criticized by Smith, 1989.) Variations in participation rates among standard demographic groups are documented in Curry ( 1980) and across the life cycle by Knoke and Thomson ( 1977).

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Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Tables vii
  • Acknowledgments xxi
  • Introduction 1
  • References 10
  • 1 - Politics 11
  • References 14
  • 2 - International Affairs 49
  • REPERENCES 51
  • 3 - Taxation and Spending 73
  • References 75
  • 4 - Confidence in Institutions 93
  • References 95
  • 5 - Political Tolerance 107
  • References 109
  • 6 - Crime and Violence 131
  • References 133
  • 7 - Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs 153
  • References 155
  • 8 - Race Relations 167
  • 9 - Sexual and Reproductive Morality 187
  • References 189
  • 10 - Death and Dying 215
  • References 216
  • 11 - Role of Women 223
  • References 224
  • 12 - Work 235
  • References 237
  • 13 - Religion 251
  • References 252
  • 14 - Family 265
  • 15 - Psychological Well-Being/Group Membership 287
  • References 288
  • Index of GSS Mnemonics 317
  • Index 321
  • About the Authors 327
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