(GS PAPER-4) Political Attitudes

Political Attitudes

  • Political attitudes are the attitudes of people to the areas of public life covered by political psychology so for example views on nationalism, political conservatism, political liberalism, political radicalism etc.
  • Political attitude tells us which party someone vote for, what kind of political ideology someone prefer most, which social, economic, cultural, international policy someone prefer etc.
  • The terms radical, liberal, moderate, conservative, and reactionary are among the words most often used in political discourse.
  • Radicals are people who find themselves extremely discontented with the status quo. Consequently, they wish an immediate and profound change in the existing order, advocating something new and different for society.
  • Considerably less dissatisfied, but still wishing to change the system significantly, are the liberals. All liberals share a belief in the equality, intelligence, and competence of people.
  • Moderates find little wrong with the existing society, and their reluctance to change it is exceeded only by the conservatives.
  • Differing from liberals in most respects, conservatives are dubious about bold efforts to improve the world for fear that incompetent meddling might, indeed, make things worse.
  • Only the reactionaries reject current institutions and modern values. They would see society retrace its steps and adopt former political norms and policies.
  • People on the right of the political spectrum revere authority, tradition, elitism, and property rights, whereas those on the left emphasize political liberty, social change, human equality, and human rights.
  • Beyond these philosophical convictions, there are several other motivations that cause people to lean to the left or right. Psychological factors about the need for change are important. Economic circumstances also play a part. Age is another factor. Finally, one’s view about the condition of human nature is probably the most important consideration in determining with which side of the spectrum one will identify. Each of these factors predisposes people’s political attitudes about certain policy alternatives.
  • Just as people’s views can modify over time, thus changing their location on the continuum, the spectrum can shift to the left or right while a person remains stationary.
  • It is also appropriate to point out that the political spectrum of one society bears no particular similarity to that of any other society unless the status quo is the same in each. A given policy could be conservative in one society, liberal in another, and radical in a third.

Political Attitude and Changing the System:

  • People at each point on the political spectrum have an attitude about changing the existing political system (the status quo) by adopting certain policies or by pursuing certain courses of action. Political change is endemic to any society. Political change can be a very complex subject.
  • With reference to the spectrum of political attitudes, we must actually learn four things about the change or policy option desired.
  • First, we must determine the direction, forward or back, in which a proposed change would carry society. In other words, is the change progressive or retrogressive? Our society generally has a favorable bias toward progress. Progressive change simply means a change from the status quo to something new and different in that society. Conversely, retrogressive change refers to a return to a policy or institution that has been used by that society in the past. For instance, the adoption of a universal compulsory government medical insurance program in the United States is a progressive policy because most people until 2018 are required to go to the marketplace to buy insurance. On the other hand, one might agree with the majority of the current U.S. Supreme Court that the states of the union are in some ways “sovereign.” Such a stance has been rejected since the Civil War, so reasserting it at this point is quite retrogressive, or reactionary.
  • The watershed between progressive and retrogressive change lies between the conservative and reactionary sectors on the spectrum, and the line between these two sectors can be taken to represent no important change at all, or continuation of the status quo. In other words, everyone to the left of the reactionary is progressive. Even conservatives are progressives in that sense, although they do not want a great deal of change to the status quo, the change they will allow is a transformation from what currently exists to that which the society has yet to experience. Only the reactionary wants a change from the status quo to something that existed previously.
  • The second thing one must determine when trying to locate desired policy options on the spectrum is the depth of a proposed change. Would the desired change amount to a major or a minor adjustment in the society? Would it modify or replace an institution that is fundamental to the society as it now exists? If so, what is the likelihood that the proposed change will cause unforeseeable and uncontrollable effects once it is implemented?
  • Once again, as with the direction of change, the watershed for the depth of change is at the line between conservative and reactionary, or at the status quo point on the spectrum. The farther people find themselves from the status quo, the more dissatisfied they are with the existing order and the more intense their desire for change.
  • The third  aspect is the speed at which people want change to occur. Obviously, the more upset people are with the status quo, the more impatient they are likely to be, and, therefore, as a general rule, the more rapidly they would like to see the existing order transformed.
  • The fourth factor we must consider regarding the concept of change is the method used to accomplish it. Political change can take place in a multitude of ways: officially or unofficially; legally, illegally, or extralegally; smoothly or abruptly; peacefully or violently.

What Factors Shape Political Attitudes?

Economic pressures:

  • Many people suspect that economic pressures are the primary motivation for choosing a particular political position, and, indeed, this does appear to be an important factor. People who are doing well in society usually do not want it to change. By contrast, the poor have little to lose materially and much to gain from progressive change. Or so it can be supposed.
  • Economics is not the only factor in the choice of political beliefs, however. There are plenty of poor conservatives, and one can easily find rich liberals. In fact, there is no single motivation for people’s political attitudes.


  • Age is often a significant factor. Usually, the young are more likely to be liberal than the elderly. This is probably because the older generations have a vested interest in the status quo that the younger generations have not yet acquired. Young people lack not only wealth, but also a sense of commitment and belonging. Fifty-year olds are likely to feel that they have a stake in society, not only because they have helped create it, but also because they have become used to it. The young have neither of these reasons to be committed to the system.

Psychological factor:

  • Some people are also more psychologically suited for liberalism or conservatism than others. To be a liberal, one must have a relatively high tolerance for disorder.

Nature of People:

  • Perhaps the greatest single determining factor in whether one will tend to the left or right is what one feels the nature of people to be. If one believes that people are essentially bad, selfish, and aggressive, then one is likely to lean to the right of the spectrum. Anyone who thinks that people are inherently evil will tend to rely on strict laws and firm punishment for violators in the belief that such measures are necessary to control errant behavior. On the other hand, people who believe their fellows to be essentially well meaning and rational will lean toward the left. They will try to avoid impeding human liberty by “unnecessarily” severe laws, and they will try to reason with offenders.
  • Many other factors — including family, gender, religion, race and ethnicity, and region — all contribute to political attitudes and behavior.


  • Despite family disagreements and generation gaps, children tend to grow up and have the political attitude same as their parents do. Families are generally the first, and often the most enduring, influence on young people’s developing political opinions. As people grow older, other influences crisscross the family, and naturally their attitudes tend to diverge from those of their parents. However, the influence still remains.
  • Logically, the more politically active your family, the more likely you are to hold the same beliefs. Just look at the Gandhi family (all are politically dumb). They all hold the same general political views.


  • Generally women has political attitude influence by their husbands or other family members but in many cases we see that they have a different political views.
  • Generally women tends to be liberal as they want equal rights, equal pay, more opportunities etc. But their political views also depend on religion, family, class etc.
  • Wherever chief minister is women (Like Jayalalita, Mamta Banerjee), women are more inclined to vote for their parties. In recent elections women also started voting for parties who support “women’s issues,” such as women protection, women reservation, equal pay, equal legal rights etc.


  • Affiliates of the “Religious Right” differ in their political attitudes and behavior from everyone else. The religious right tends to support be more conservative. This tendency is more clearly associated with social issues such as gay rights, cow protection, etc than with economic issues or foreign affairs.
  • Christian voters are more likely to support Congress than are Caste Hindus. Muslims tend to be focus more on security aspects and secularism than other factors like economic development.


  • As a general rule, people of south tend to vote regional parties more than north India. However, there are many exceptions to this tendency.
  • People of north India tends to have more conservative views on several social, religious and economic issues.

Political ideologies:

  • Political Ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society should work, and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.
  • A political ideology largely concerns itself with how to allocate power and to what ends it should be used. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them.
  • Political ideologies have two dimensions:
  1. Goals: How society should work (or be arranged).
  2. Methods: The most appropriate ways to achieve the ideal arrangement.
  • An ideology is a collection of ideas. Typically, each ideology contains certain ideas on what it considers to be the best form of government (e.g. democracy, theocracy, etc), and the best economic system (e.g. capitalism, socialism, etc).
  • Ideologies also identify themselves by their position on the political spectrum (such as the left, the center or the right).
  • Finally, ideologies can be distinguished from political strategies (e.g. populism) and from single issues that a party may be built around (e.g. opposition to European integration or the legalization of marijuana).
  • Political ideologies are concerned with many different aspects of a society, some of which are: the economy, education, health care, labor law, criminal law, the justice system, the provision of social security and social welfare, trade, the environment, minors, immigration, race, use of the military, patriotism and established religion.

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