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Indicators of support and stress : an examination of Easton's systems theory McVicar, Kenneth Edward

Abstract

This study investigates David Easton's concept of political support in a three-fold analysis. The purpose of this exploratory research is to construct links between political support and empirical behavior. Drawing on a wide range of literature, the author presents inventories of indicators in order to emphasize the areas of political behavior from which empirical content for political support might be drawn. The first portion of this analysis deals with political support in the context of Easton's systems approach. Examining possible dependent variables, the author suggests that system persistence and system change are of questionable utility. The investigator chooses stress as the dependent variable, and redefines it in terms of the objects of support: the authorities, the regime, and the political community. The second part of the study examines political support as the summary independent variable. Support is divided into two sub-categories--covert and overt support--which are held to be different, independently-varying sets of behavior. Three analytical dimensions--size, concentration, and intensity--are assigned to both covert and overt support. The author suggests that, while these assigned properties are crude, they have utility in empirically defining support. The third part of this research presents inventories of indicators for covert and overt support, following the framework provided by the three analytical properties. Since no data are presented, the author suggests that conclusions cannot be drawn regarding the strength of the relationship between the indicators and the support dimensions. The researcher also offers some suggestions regarding the linkages between covert and overt support. Concluding the analysis, the author investigates simple, illustrative relationships between covert support, overt support, and stress. He warns that some spurious relationships may exist, given the crude nature of the present framework. The author finds that the present scheme seems logically useful, but that estimates of its true value must await data collection and analysis. He concludes that the study represents a partial analysis of Easton's total systems model, and that more research is necessary to operationalize this model in its entirety.

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