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Political Culture in Contemporary BritainPeople and Politicians, Principles and Practice$
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William L. Miller, Annis May Timpson, and Michael Lessnoff

Print publication date: 1996

Print ISBN-13: 9780198279846

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198279846.001.0001

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The Governing Perspective

The Governing Perspective

(p.55) 3 The Governing Perspective
Political Culture in Contemporary Britain

William L. Miller

Annis May Timpson

Michael Lessnoff

Oxford University Press

How do the views of politicians compare with those of the people? To answer this question a sample of 1,244 politicians were interviewed simultaneously with the survey of the public, asking them all the questions put to the public plus a few extra questions about their role and experience in politics. Researchers set out to interview the leader of each political group on each local government council throughout Britain-including the leaders of Independent groups as well as those who led Conservative, Labour, Liberal, Nationalist, and other party groups. Some findings significantly strengthened the conclusions of the earliest US studies of democratic elitism, because they reveal differences between politicians and the public even on questions of principle. On principles of respect for authority and traditional values, wealth creation, tolerance, limited government, free speech, and self-reliance, politicians were substantially more liberal than the public — though on egalitarian principles politicians hardly differed from the public. Other findings seriously undermine the theory of democratic elitism. In particular, it was found that politicians were significantly less liberal than the public on the principles of protest and rebellion — and that reverses the conclusions of those early US studies.

Keywords:   surveys, principles, democratic elitism, respect for authority, egalitarian principles, rebellion

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