The Birch Society and Its Contemporaries: Social Base
The concept of "selective support" has threaded its way through the study of a number of right-wing groups. There was evidence that some of Coughlin's opinion poll supporters may have been doing no more than vaguely giving vent to their preservatist feelings, without particularly adopting Coughlin's program. Indeed, some of them may have found this the most convenient way of just expressing their conviction that something was awry. McCarthy's support was marked by the same kind of ambiguity.
It is not just that social movements attract people for different reasons. As Hans Toch has pointed out, "Social movements in search of a mass following frequently follow a saturation method, and try to present a 'cafeteria' of appeals, catering to a diversity of needs." 1
But "selective support" connotes different levels of commitment as well. There are several ways in which individuals can relate positively to a social movement. They can join it; they can consistently support it, in voting, in financial contributions, and so on; and they can expressively approve of it when asked. The Joiners obviously do all three; the Supporters approve, but do not join; the Approvers do not join or consistently support. The common usage of the term "social movement" confusingly embraces different combinations of these three levels of commitment at different times. The Joiners clearly are part of a movement. In a political context, the preferential Supporters are properly considered part of a movement, the fellow travelers. But the Approvers are more a