Sociology, Department of
Date of this Version
Whereas classical political theory indicates that widespread public support for democratic principles is necessary for the maintenance of a democratic society, research evidence has almost universally shown a difference between the general public and the elite with the latter being more supportive. Many contemporary observers, in contradiction to classical theory, have explained this difference in terms of an independent politically active stratum, differing from the mass public not only in terms of generally higher social status, but also by a unique socialization process. An article published in the Journal of Politics by Robert Jackman has challenged this interpretation by purporting to show that when education and other relevant variables are controlled, leaders are no more tolerant than are members of the mass. His conclusion: “Clearly, there is little evidence here for the possible existence of special attitudes belonging to a distinctive political stratum because we have no residual category that requires labeling. As a result, theories that attempt to account for the differential rates of support for minority rights among elites and the mass public by invoking the notion that elites undergo some unique resocialization process are basically superfluous.” Recently, we discovered an error in Jackman's analysis. A correction of that error leads to a conclusion exactly opposite from his.
Published in The Journal of Politics, Vol. 39, No. 1. (Feb., 1977), pp. 176–184. Copyright © 1977 and published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Southern Political Science Association. Used by permission.