The season of our discontent. A survey research of political knowledge and attitudes of three campus organizations : Students for a Democratic Society, Young Democrats, and Young Americans for Freedom

Date

1969

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Abstract

This thesis proposes that Americans, on the whole, have become alienated from their creedal values as a result of technological change outstripping social change. Activist students are attempting to break out of the dilemma created by the contradiction of American ideals and current experience, and are looking back to the creedal values to guide them. The American Creed, though, contains a dichotomy: libertarianism and egalitarianism. This dichotomy has an important bearing on the paths that students follow toward achieving the "American Dream." It is found in their concepts of conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism. A person who is oriented in a libertarian direction will follow the conservative (Classical Liberal) route; one who is an egalitarian will be radicalized; and one who is attempting to balance the two ideals becomes a liberal (New Liberal). To test this assumption, campus groups which are identified as conservative, liberal, and radical were selected: the Young Americans for Freedom, the Young Democrats, and the Students for a Democratic Society. As a control, an elementary college political science class was used. Political knowledge of the four groups and selected attitude scales reflecting creedal values were given, and hypotheses constructed as to how the groups would compare on the scales. None of our hypotheses were rejected, and four--those concerning political knowledge, attitudes toward law, liberalism-conservatism, and worldmindedness--were completely borne out by the data. Two were modified, but only slightly. These were attitude scales on ethnocentrism and militarism- pacifism. Although not a part of our hypotheses, we compared backgrounds of the respondents of the various groups in the categories of sex, age, marital status, educational achievement, student/non-student members, college enrolled in, employment, family income, and religious affiliation. We found that, with the exception of family income and religious background, the conclusions of previous research were confirmed.

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Keywords

Democratic organizations, College students

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