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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Measuring the structure and stability of opinion in mass publics Tworzecki, Hubert


This thesis examines the structure and stability of public opinion in a sample of Canadian respondents. The data consist of a three-wave panel of 1790 cases; the interviews were conducted in 1977, 1979 and 1980 as part of the Social Change in Canada project of the Institute for Behavioral Research of York University. In the first part of the thesis various theoretical and methodological issues pertinent to the study of mass political attitudes are discussed and a research strategy is proposed. In the second part, factor analysis is used to extract structural information from the data. It is found that the opinions of English-speaking respondents can be described in terms of four fundamental dimensions which are given the tentative labels of "welfare liberalism," "nostalgic conservatism," "pro-business," and "provincial rights." For French-speaking respondents, two dimensions are found: "welfare liberalism" and "protection of French-Canadian society." Finally, regression analysis is performed on factor-based scales to obtain more information about the opinion structures. The central finding is that it is indeed possible to use mass survey data to identify a simple structure of political beliefs of the Canadian public, and to tie this structure to the political and social makeup of the country.

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