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Nardulli: Political subcultures in the American states

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.

Nardulli. 1990. Political subcultures in the American states: An empirical examination of Elazar's formulation. American Politics Quarterly 18: 287-315.

Method: Nardulli took Elazar's description of the three cultures and turned them into four survey questions. For each question, the respondent chose one of three statements with which they most agreed. As it turns out, there was no correlation across the four questions. Elazar also said that certain demographic and geographic attributes contribute to these three political subcultures, but, as it turned out, demography and geography actually yielded conflicting results. Elazar appears to have ben wrong.

In fact, the method used was biased in Elazar's favor, but it still appears to be wrong. Nardulli concedes that survey respondents might have trouble differentiating the three statements and seeing which one they really thought was best; after all, Elazar said they were subconscious. But even when Nardulli looked only at responses from people with some college education, the correlations just aren't there.

Elazar's ideas may still have some use. Although there are not, apparently, Moralists, Individualists, and Traditionalists, the aspects that go into these three types may still be useful. For example, there are correlations between a response to an individual question and attitudes about a related policy/lifestyle area. (e.g. those with "moralist" attitudes about political activity do participate more in politics).

Why, then, do studies that use Elazar as X find significant relationships? Nardulli attributes this to sectionalism. But see Hero and Tolbert (1996); perhaps these studies were picking up the effects of racial/ethnic diversity.


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Nardulli, Peter (author)Political ScienceAmerican PoliticsState Politics (U.S.)Political Subcultures

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