Political Instution, Public Confidence In, Empirical Article
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Political Instution, Public Confidence In, Empirical Article Document Transcript

  • 1. Declining Government Confidence and Policy Preferences in the U.S.: Devolution, Regime Effects, or Symbolic Change?* CLEM BROOKS, Indiana University SIMON CHENG, Indiana University Abstract No trend in U.S. public opinion has elicited more enduringconcern among scholars, political commentators, and politicians than declininig levels ofpublic confidence in the federal government. Motivated by the possibility that this decline signals a crisis of legitimacy or growing dissatisfactionwith the overall direction of public policy, two generations of scholarlydebates have yielded three conmpeting theoreticalinterpretations of this phenomenon. While they provide divergentanswers to imiportantquestions about the devolution ofpolicy-makinigfrom thefederalgovernment to subnationallevels of government, competing hypotheses implied by these interpretationshave not been successfully evaluated. We seek to advance theory and research by investigatingwhether governmental confidence affects the public's willingness to supportfederal involvement ivthin specificpolicy domains such as health careand eduation. Evaluatinghypotheses implied by competing interpretationsof declininggovernment confidence, wefind that the relationshipbetween government confidence and policypreferences is small and shows no evidence of trends. VWe discuss implications for competing interpretations of government confidence and the possible role of declining confidence in explaining contemporarypatterns of welfare state retrenchment. No trend in U.S. public opinion has elicited more enduring concern among scholars, political commentators, and politicians than declining levels of public confidence in the federal government. Spanning the past three decades, declining * Data and codebooks from the General Social Surveys were provided by the Roper Center. The authors have sole responsibilityfor tabulations, analyses, and interpretations of these data. An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2000 meetings of the American Sociological Association. We tihank Paul Burstein, Jeremy Freese, Jeff Manza, Pamela Paxton, Brian Powell, Robert Robinson, and two Social Forces reviiewers for comments. Direct correspondence to Clem Brooks, Departmentof Sociology, 1020 E. Kirkwood Ave., Indiana University, Bloomington, IN47405-7103. E-mail: cbrooks@indiana.edu. © The University of North Carolina Press Social Forces, June 2001, 79(4):1343-1375
  • 2. 1344 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 government confidence is distinguished not only by its magnitude but also by its temporal duration. Whereas over 70% of Americans in 1960 indicated that they trusted government "almost always" or "most of the time," this proportion dipped below 40% in 1974, recovering slightly in the mid-1980s only to reach new lows in the 1990s (Erikson & Tedin 1995; Orren 1997). The cumulative decrease in public confidence in government has figured in two generations of scholarly debate concerning the proper interpretation of these trends. The central issue in first-generation debates concerned the possibility that low levels of government confidence signaled the declining legitimacy of U.S. politicai institutions. Miller (1974a: 951; 1974b), for instance, construed low confidence levels as indicative of growing and ideologically based public dissatisfaction with the overall direction of national policy-making, warning that "a democratic political systern cannot survive for long without the support of a majority of its citizens:' Citrin (1974), by contrast, hypothesized that declining confidence was limited to negative feelings about political incumbents and their policies. Given that such attitudes could readily be reversed (e.g., if popular leaders were elected to office), Citrin's interpretation cast doubt on the proposition that dedining government confidence could threaten the legitimacy of political institutions. Extending this line of reasoning, Lipset and Schneider (1983) raised even more fundamental questions about the significance of declining confidence, arguing that distrust of national institutions is a central feature of U.S. political culture and that citizens' underlying commitment to democratic institutions remained high during this time. While a rebound in public confidence during the early 1980s momentarily quelled debates, an even steeper decline since 1984 has renewed scholarly interest in these opinion trends (see Braithwaite & Levi 1998; Hetherington 1998; Hibbing & Theiss-Morse 1995; Miller & Borrelli 1991; Miller & Listhaug 1990; Nye 1997). While building from previous work, an emnerging focus within contemporary debates is on questions about public satisfaction with the direction of federal policy-making (Barnes 1995). As developed in the work of Jennings (1998), the devolution thesis views declining public confidence as linked to a general dissatisfaction with the role of the federal government in favor of state or local responsibility for public policy. Although the evidence for the devolution thesis is at best controversial (Smith 1995), assumptions of a relationship between government confidence and devolution have become a popular device with which a number of commentators have explained political change and policy conflicts in the 1990s (see Greenberg 1995; Morris 1998; Skocpol 1996). We believe that the devolution thesis provides an important opportunity for advancing theory and research on confidence in government. Coupled with the absence of the type of widespread unrest or rebellion envisioned by analysts in the early 1970s, Lipset and Schneider's (1983, 1987) evidence for strong public beliefs in democratic institutions has largely resolved earlier debates over the possible relationship between legitimacy and government confidence. However, the
  • 3. Dedining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1345 devolution thesis raises a different but no less important scenario, namely, that government confidence is associated with individuals' preferences for (or against) government involvement in policy domains such as the provision of health care. In doing so, the devolution thesis raises a question that cannot be answered by Lipset and Schneider's critique or by other existing research: What is the relationship between individuals' level of confidence in government and their preferences with respect to the level of involvement by the federal government in policy-making activities? WVe identify two ways in which an analysis of the relationship between policy preferences and level of confidence in government can enhance our understanding of declining government confidence. First, preferences for government involvement in specific policy domains such as health care, education, or national defense represent a theoretically meaningful variable against which to gauge the significance of declining confidence. If individuals' willingness to support federal involvement or specific programs is linked to their level of confidence in government, then declining government confidence is clearly an important phenomenon. Conversely, if lower levels of confidence have had little impact on what Americans prefer and expect from the federal government, then its significance would be called into question, Second, an analysis of policy preferences is informative in that the latter represent a causal process through which growing distrust' in government may affect the behavior of politicians or the activities of government agencies. Indeed, a growing body of research (Erikson, Wright & McIver 1989; Hill & Hinton- Andersson 1995: Stimson, Mackuen & Erikson 1995; see Burstein 1998 for review) has provided evidence that over time shifts in policy preferences contribute to subsequent changes in the direction of government policy. 2 However, confidence in government has not been induded as a variable in this research, thereby leaving open questions about its possible role. If it has contributed to a decrease in the public's willingness to endorse government responsibility for policy challenges such as health care or welfare, the decline of confidence in government has direct implications for understanding contemporary policy conflicts as vell as the balance of federal- versus state-level or local authority. Such questions about the role of public opinion are particularly relevant to emerging research on the causal sources of welfare state retrenchment in the 1990s (Cook & Barret 1992; Pierson 1994, 1996; Shapiro & Young 1989; Skocpol 1996; Zylan & Soule 2000). In this study, we develop a comprehensive analysis of the relationship between confidence in government and policy preferences. Our analyses consider three critical dimensions that have not been satisfactorily addressed in previous research: over time; across heterogeneous policy domains; and with reference to the two major branches of government that have experienced dedining confidence (Congress and the presidency). We begin by summarizing the three main theoretical interpretations of confidence in government. We identify competing hypotheses
  • 4. 1346 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 implied by these interpretations, considering their relevance to understanding the interrelationship of governmental confidence and policy preferences during the past three decades. After describing our research design, data, and measures, we present the results of the analyses. Finally, we discuss their relevance for understanding competing interpretations of declining confidence and its possible role in explaining contemporary patterns of welfare state retrenchment. Competing Interpretations of Public Confidence in Government SYMBOLIC CHANGE? The first interpretation of government confidence we consider can be termed the symbolic change thesis. In their seminal study The Confidence Gap (1983, 1987), Lipset and Schneider found evidence of strong public beliefs in the underlying legitimacy of U.S. political institutions. Countering claims of a legitimation crisis, Lipset and Schneider hypotlhesized that low levels of government confidence w% ere limited to political leaders (as well as to leaders of other major institutions) and involved a growing belief that politicians are motivated primarily by self-interest. When coupled with the assumption that this belief is a product of changing styles of media coverage (Lipset & Schneider 1983; see also Lipset 1996), Lipset and Schneider's results led them to view the decline in government confidence as an increasingly prominent symbol of the post-1960s U.S., but one with few implications for Anmericans' expectations or for the overall stability of political institutions. Although Lipset and Schneider do not explicitly discuss policy preferences, their symbolic change thesis suggests little interrelationship with government confidence. Indeed, without this implication, declining confidence would signal fundamental changes in Americans' expectations regarding the role of the federal government (and dissatisfaction with existing institutions). We thus derive the following two hypotheses from the symbolic change thesis: (1) individuals' preferences for governmient involvement within specific policy domains tend to vary independently of their level of confidence in government; and (2) the relationship between these two variables involves no time trends (e.g., as would be exemplified by a growing association). Evidence of either a consistently large or a growfing association between government confidence and policy preferences would thus call the symbolic change thesis into question. REGIME EFFECTS? Whereas the symbolic change thesis implies that declining confidence has little impact on what individuals expect from government, a different interpretation, developed by Citrin (1974), anticipates the possibility of a relationship. More
  • 5. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1347 specifically, Citrin assumed that declining confidence in the 1970s involved dissatisfaction with both elected political officials and their policies. This assumption implies the possibility of a relationship between government confidence and policy preferences, but one that is conditional on the activities of specific presidents or congressional leaders. Government confidence is thus assumed to be a dimension of presidential or congressional popularity. WAAe to this interpretation as the regime effects thesis to capture its claim refer that the relationship between public confidence and policy preferences depends upon the specific time period covered by a presidential administration or Congress. Given that specific presidential administrations or sessions of Congress may elicit particularly low levels of public confidence, an oscillation between popular and unpopular regimes may result in time-specific patterns of association between government confidence and policy preferences. Popular political leaders may facilitate, while unpopular leaders may lower, public support for government involvement in specific policy domains. Changes in the magnitude (or sign) of the government confidence/policy preferences relationship that correspond to changes in party control of the presidency or Congress are thus consistent with the regime effects thesis. It is possible, for instance, that a relationship between presidential confidence and policy preferences grew during the later years of Democratic president Jimmy Carter's administration, while subsequently declining during the first term of Republican president Ronald Reagan. In summary, if we observe a substantial relationship between government confidence and policy preferences at some (but not other) points in time, this would provide evidence favoring the regime effects over the symbolic change thesis. A SOURCE OF DEVOLUTION? The devolution scenario is readily distinguished from the expectations of the symbolic change and regime effects theses. First, as developed in the work of Jennings (1998), the devolution thesis implies that the relationship between government confidence and policy preferences is large. Second, although the literature on devolution is equivocal on whether this relationship is stable over time or instead involves a trend toward increased association, evidence for either scenario provides a sufficient basis for distinguishing the devolution thesis from the other two interpretations. The devolution thesis is unique in advancing claims about a consistently large association between confidence in government and policy preferences. Observations of a large or monotonically increasing association during the 1.990s would thus favor the devolution thesis over the other two theses. To date, the evidence for the devolution thesis is inconclusive. Some analysts have cited declining government confidence as contributing to welfare state retrenchment or the failure of reforms that sought to expand federal responsibility for social provision (Morris 1998; Skocpol 1996), but they offer no evidence for such cLaims. Inglehart (1997) hypothesizes a relationship between low government
  • 6. 1348 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 confidence and dissatisfaction with the scope of government, but he does not offer any supporting analyses. A recent study by Jennings (1998) reports that declining government trust is associated with a general preference for state or local responsibility for policy-making, but the data he analyzes are drawn from surveys of a very specific time period (1968-80), raising questions about the generalizability of his findings. Moreover, to fully meet the critique developed by Lipset and Schneider (1983), proponents of the devolution thesis must also provide evidence that a general willingness to favor state or local over federal government authority is not itself purely symbolic - with the latter being unrelated to policy preferences within specific domains. Ihese considerations require an analysis of policy preferences across a suitable range of domains and spanning a longer time period. CAUSAL INTERPRETATION Evaluating the causal interrelationship of subjective phenomena such as confidence in government and policy preferences is oftentimes difficult in the absence of experimental data, and past research has alternated between treating government confidence as a cause and treating it as an effect of other attitudes (Hetherington 1998). Our working assumption, informed by the logic of the devolution thesis, is that confidence in government is a cause of policy preferences. When interpreting our regression results, we thus refer to the "effects" of government confidence on policy preferences. However, it is important to emphasize that such issues of causal interpretation are generally of consequence for statistical inference only if the association of two variables is large or involves a time trend. As will become clearer in the presentation of our results, the association of government confidence and policy preferences is generally stmall and shows no evidence of trends. As a restult, the inconclusive causal status of confidence in government in relation to policy preferences does not affect our evaluation of hypotheses. Research Design, Data, and Measures RESEARCH DESIGN We analyze the relationship between confidence in government and policy preferences along three dimensions: over time; across policy domains; and with reference to the distinct political institutions of Congress and the presidency. Each dimension has substantive relevance to theoretical debates over government confidence, but none has been satisfactorily analyzed in past research. No previous study has analyzed the interrelationship of congressional versus presidential confidence and policy preferences, and studies that directly measure government confidence and policy preferences have considered a small number of policy domains while relying on data that is limited to the 1970s (Jennings 1998; Miller 1974a). We develop an explicitly multivariate analysis that controls for such
  • 7. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. f 1349 potentially compounding factors as ideological identification, enabling informative estimates of the total versus direct effects of government confidence. The inclusion of these controls also reduces the chance of detecting spurious relationships involving government confidence. With regard to the dimension of time, the symbolic change thesis implies little change in what is expected to be a small relationship between government confidence and policy preferences. By contrast, the regime effects thesis anticipates the possibility of time-specific patterns of association stemming from the effects of different Congresses or presidential administrations. For its part, the devolution thesis implies the existence of a large association between level of government confidence and policy preferences, while also anticipating the possibility of a trend toward growing association. Our second dimension of comparison is across heterogeneouspolicy domains. This dimension is essential to testing hypotheses about the relationship between confidence in government and preferences for government involvement with respect to the large number of policy domains (e.g., public health, environmental protection, labor relations, national defense, and civil rights) in which modern governments are involved. Past studies of policy preferences have established that preferences for government involvement vary widely across domains (e.g., Feldman & Zaller 1992; Page & Shapiro 1992), and our analyses take this heterogeneity into account by considering the broadest possible range of policy domains. Our third dimension of comparison relates to the institutional targetof public confidence. We illustrate the importance of distinguishing among political institutions using the data summarized in Figure 1. These data are from the General Social Surveys (GSSs) (Davis & Smith 1997), and they document changing levels of public support for Supreme Court justices, congressional leaders, and presidents. Notwithstanding small differences between the patterns of declining confidence for congressional leaders versus presidents, the larger contrast is with members of the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices have enjoyed very high levels of public confidence, and the GSS data provide no evidence of a declining trend. Given this result and the focus of past debates, we restrict our analysis to confidence in leaders of the other two branches of the federal government. DAIA In this study, we analyze data from the General Social Surveys from 1974 through 1996 (Davis & Smith 1997). These surveys provide the best data with which to systematically test hypotheses about declining government confidence, 3 satisfying four critical requirements. A first requirement is coverage of the relatively long time period (the 1970s through the 1990s) during which both waves of declining government confidence
  • 8. 1350 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 FIGURE 1: Changes in Levels of Confidence in Supreme Court Justices, Presidents, and Congressional Leaders 3.0 7----------------------------------------------- I ----- u E 2.5- 4 2.0- 1.5 0 1.0 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 Source: Data are from the General Social Surveys, 1973-96.
  • 9. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1351 occurred. The GSS data enable us to examine the relationship between declining confidence and policy preferences over a period as long as 22 years, lending far greater generalizability than past studies whose data cover only the first wave of dedine (see Jennings 1998; Miller 1974a). This lengthy time period is useful in distinguishing short-term fluctuations from trends, and while random measurement error can attenuate estimates of association between survey items, such errors nave no impact on trend estimates unless the former are also associated with time. Our analysis of the years 1974 through 1996 spans seven separate presidential administrations and eleven separate sessions of Congress; during this time party control of the presidency changed three times and control of the House of Representatives once, enabling a fruitful test of the regime effects thesis. 4 The remaining three requirements relate to the availability of suitable items with which to measure government confidence, policy preferences, and relevant statistical controls. We take advantage of the existence of items that employ identical question wording and response categories across different surveys. Specific features of these measures are discussed below. MEASURES OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE IN GOVERNMENT We measure individuals' level of confidence in government using two GSS items that ask respondents to assess their degree of confidence in congressional leaders and the president. These items have been used in past studies to identify declining trends in government confidence (see Lipset & Schneider 1983; Smith & Taylor 1979). As summarized in Table 1, the items ask respondents whether they have "a great deal of confidence" (1), "only some confidence" (2), or "hardly any confidence" (3) in the president and congressional leaders. In the analyses below, we treat these two items as continuous variables.5 The GSS confidence items have two features that make them especially useful for hypothesis testing. First, in contrast to the more commonly analyzed National Election Survey item, the GSS items distinguish among the institutional targets of public confidence in government. This is appropriate in light of the possibility that the political salience of confidence in government - and thus the association between confidence and policy preferences - may vary across branches of the federal government. 6 The GSS items are also useful in that they refer to individuals' level of confidence in the leaders of executive and legislative branches of government (rather than to the institutions). This enables us to incorporate Citrin's (1974) and Lipset and Schneider's (1983) claims that declining government confidence relates primarily to national political leaders.
  • 10. 1352 f Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 TABLE 1: Description of Variables Used in the Analysis Variables (Coding) Question Wording PrimaryItidependent Variables I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people runniing these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them? Confidence in president (continuous: Executive branch of the federal government? 1 = "a great deal"; 2 = "only some"; 3= "hardly any") Confidence in congressional leaders Congress? (continuous: 1 = "a great deal"; 2 = "only some"; 3 = "hardly any") PrimaryControl Variable Ideological identification (continuous: We hear a lot of talk these days about liberals and I = extremely liberal; 7 = extremely conservatives. I'm going to show you a 7-point conservative) scale on which the political views that people might hold are arranged from extremely liberal- point 1-to extremely conservative-point 7. Where would you place yourself on this scale? Other Control Variables Age (continuous: years) Education (continuous: years) Gender (dichotomous: male = 0; female = I) Race (dichotomous: other = 0; African American = 1) Region (categorical: 0 =West; three dummyvariables for Northeast, South, and Midwest) Dependent Variables 1-3: Government Assistance Items Assistance to the poor (continuous: Some people think that the government in 1 = strongly agree that government Washington should do everything possible to should improve living standards; improve the standard ofliving ofall poor 5 = strongly agree that people should Americans; they are at Point 1 on this card. take care ofthemselves) Other people think it is not the government's responsibility, and that each person should take care of himself; they are at Point 5. Where would you place yourself on this scale, or haven't you made up your mind on this?
  • 11. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1353 TABLE 1: Description of Variables Used in the Analysis (Continued) Variables (Coding) Question Wording Dependent Vfariables 1-3: Government Ascsistance Items (Continued) Assistance to blacks (continuous: Some people think that (Blacks/Negroes/African- I = strongly agree that government is Americans) have been discriminated against for obligated to help blacks; 5 = strongly so long that the government has a special agree that government shouldn't give obligation to help improve their living standards. special treatment) Others believe that the govermnent should not be giving special treatment to (Blacks/Negroes/ African-Americans). Where would you place yourself on this scale, or have you made up your mind on this? Medical assistance (continuous: In genera], some people think that it is the 1 = strongly agree that it is the responsibility of the government in Washington responsibility of government to to see to it that people have help in paying for help; 5 = strongly agree that people doctors and hospital bills. Others think that these should take care of themselves) things are not the responsibility of the federal government and that people should take care of these things themselves. Where would you place yourself on this scale, or haven't you made up your mind on this? Dependent Variables 4-18: Government [Filterforall spending itemsl: We are faced with SpendingItems (all spending items are many problems in this country, none of which continuous: 1 = too little; 2 = about can be sold easily or inexpensively. I'm going to right; 3 = too much) name some of these problems, and for each one I'd like you to tell me whether you think we're spending too much money on it, too little money, or about the right amount. Health care Improving and protecting that nation's health. Welfare Welfare. Social security Social security. Education Improving the nation's education system. Blacks Improving the conditions of Blacks. Cities Solving the problems of the big cities. Environment Improving and protecting the environment. Crime Halting the rising crime rate. Drugs Dealing with drug addiction. Mass transportation Mass transportation. Highways and bridges Highways and bridges. Parks Parks and recreation. Foreign aid Foreign aid. (Continued on next page)
  • 12. 1354 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 TABLE 1: Description of Variables Used in the Analysis (Continued) Variables (Coding) Question Wording Dependent Variables 4-.18: Government SpendingItems (Continued) National defense The military, armaments and defense. Federal taxes (continuous: I = too low; Do you consider the amount of federal income tax 2 = about right; 3 = too high) which you have to pay ask too high, about right, or too low? Dependent Variables 19-27: Governiment [Filterfor all responisibilityitems]: On the whole, ResponsibilityItems (all responsibility do you think it should or should not be the items are continuous: 1 = definitely government's responsibility to . . . should be; 2 = probably should be; 3 = can't choose; 4 = probably should not be; 5 = definitely should not be) Provide jobs Provide a job for everyone who wants one? Social security Provide a decent standard of living for the old? Health care Provide health care for the sick? Unemployment assistance Provide a decent standard of living for the unemployed? Provide housing Provide decent housing for those who can't afford it? Educational opportunity Give financial assistance to college students from low-income families? Reduce income inequality Reduce income differences between the rich and poor? Industrial assistance Provide industry with the help it needs to grow? Control inflation Keep prices under control? MEASURES OF POLICY PREFERENCES Our dependent variables measure policy preferences across a large number of domains, ranging from health and federal income taxes to preferred levels of public spending on national defense and the environment. In all, we analyze a total of 27 7 separate policy preference items from the GSS. Nine of these items have been used as components of the measure of policy preferences (Stimson 1989) found to predict changes in public policy (Stimson, Mackuen & Erikson 1995). This overlap is useful in establishing the validity and reliability of the GSS policy preference items. The first three dependent variables concern the public's level of support for government assistance programs (see Table 1 for question wording). The three Likert-type items in this category refer to assistance to the poor, to African Americans, and to individuals with health care costs. The response categories for these items range from I ("strongly agree") to 5 ("strongly disagree"). These items
  • 13. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. I 1355 are available for twelve years of the GSS, covering the long time period from 1975 through 1996.8 The second block of dependent variables concems respondents' preferred level of government spending. For these 15 items, respondents were asked whether the current level of spending for a given policy domain is "too little" (l), "about right" (2), or "too much" (3).9 A positive association between these responses and confidence in government indicates that low confidence is related to an unwillingness to endorse federal government activity or involvement. The government spending items have been fielded in most years of the General Social Survey since 1974, again enabling tests of hypotheses regarding time trends.' 0 Our final block of dependent variables are nine GSS items that ask respondents their preferences regarding government's level of responsibility for specific policy domains. For these five-category Likert-type items, "1" indicates the strongest level of support for federal governmental responsibility and "5" indicates the strongest level of opposition. The government responsibility items are available in fewer General Social Surveys, but they span the most recent period during which control of both the presidency and the House of Representatives changed." Their overlapping reference to three policy domains covered by other GSS items (social security, health care, and education) is also useful in gauging whether differences in question wordings or the framing of government involvement yield different estimates of association with respondents' level of confidence in government. CONTROLS FOR SOCIODEMOGRAPHIc FACTORS AND IDEOLOGICAL IDENTIFICATION We incorporate two types of control variables, one related to sociodemographic factors and the other to ideological identification. The inclusion of the sociodemographic variables ensures that any association between government confidence and policy preferences is not spurious (i.e., solely a product of social group-based differences in government confidence and policy preferences). Potentially the most important of these factors is race. In keeping with research documenting African Americans' comparatively high levels of support for many federal programs (Howell & Fagan 1988; Tate 1993), we analyze race as a dichotomous variable coded " 1" for African American and "O"otherwise. 12 The remaining sociodemographic controls measure other well-known sources of policy attitudes (see Brint & Kelley 1993; Erikson & Tedin 1995; Page & Shapiro 1992). Age and education are both analyzed as continuous variables (measured in years). Gender is a dichotomy coded "1" for women and "O"for men. We analyze region as three dummy variables for Northeast, South, and Midwest, with West as the reference category. The ideological control variable in the analysis measures individuals' identification using a seven-point scale whose categories range from "extremely liberal" (1) to "extremely conservative" (7). In similar fashion to the
  • 14. 1356 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 sociodemographic variables, ideological identification may also produce spurious associations between government confidence and policy preferences,13 possibly because ideological identification can be a cognitive heuristic that individuals utilize to evaluate politicians or public policies (Fuchs & Kiingemann 1990; Sniderman, Brody & Tetlock 199 1). As discussed in the results section, including ideological identification in the models also provides a useful baseline against which to gauge the magnitude of the corresponding effects of presidential and congressional confidence. STATISTICAL MODEIS AND STANDARDIZED COEFFICIENTS We use OLS models for our analyses. As a check on the OLS assumption of interval- level measurement in the dependent variable, we also conducted the analyses using an ordered logit specification. Because these analyses yielded congruent results, we present the simpler OLS estimates. Our analyses are conducted in three stages. In the first stage we estimate models with covariates for the two government confidence items and the sociodemographic control variables. In the second stage, we estimate models with covariates for the ideological identification item and the sociodemographic control variables. Because the government confidence and ideological identification items are not estimated in the same model, the first two stages of the analysis yield estimates of the total respective effects of government confidence and ideological identification. The third stage of the analysis yields estimates of the directeffects of government confidence and ideological identification by including both sets of covariates in the same model. This design enables us to compare the total versus direct effects of government confidence and ideological identification, thereby providing information about their interrelationships. For instance, if the total effects of government confidence shrink when ideological identification is estimated in the same model, this indicates that the direct effects of government confidence are smaller than their total effects (possibly because ideological identification mediates the effects of government confidence). However, if the total and direct effects are similar, this shows that government confidence and ideological identification are independent sources of policy preferences. The dimension of time is central to our hypothesis testing, and we analyze each policy preference item for every year that it was fielded in the GSS, yielding over 750 separate statistical models. To facilitate the interpretation of results, we present standardized coefficients using a series of graphical displays. The standardized coefficients are useful in controlling for the varying marginal distributions of independent and dependent variables (across policy domains and also over time). Whereas unstandardized coefficients can frustrate comparisons across items with different distributions and ranges, the fully standardized coefficients take such variation directly into account using a common metric. This standardization thus enables direct comparisons along our three cross-cutting dimensions of variation:
  • 15. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1357 across independent variables, between policy domains, and over time. Additional details are discussed below. Results The results of our analyses are very consistent with respect to the dimensions of time, policy domain, and institutional target of public confidence. Using the results summarized in Figure 2, we examine the first three dependent variables measuring government assistance to the poor, to blacks, and to individcuals with medical costs. In the first column of Figure 2, we present estimates for the total effects of presidential confidence, congressional confidence, and ideological identification; estimates for their direct effects (derived fiom models including all independent variables) are presented in the second column. Solid circles represent estimated coefficients. By gauging its distance fronm the light, dashed line designating an estimate of 0, we can observe the magnitude of a specific coefficient at a particular point in time. Taking as an example the total effect of congressional confidence on government assistance to the poor, the .05 standardized coefficient for 1975 indicates that a standard deviation decrease in confidence is predicted to lower support for government assistance by .05 standard deviations. Comparing this estimate with the direct effects estimate in the second column reveals a nearly identical value of .04, indicating that the very small relationship between congressional confidence and government assistance to the poor in 1975 was largely unrelated to the corresponding effects of presidential confidence and ideological identification. The results in Figure 2 show few differences across the dimensions of policy domain and institutional target. Of the three covariates, the effects of ideological identification are by far the largest, with the average direct effects coefficient being approximately .15 for assistance to the poor (and .16 for the total effect estimates). By comparison, the corresponding effects of presidential and congressional confidence are much smaller (approximately -.05 and .04 in the direct effects models), and this pattern is very similar across the three separate policy domains analyzed in Figure 2. The magnitude of these coefficients is largely unchanged in the total versus direct effects models, indicating that the respective effects of the three main independent variables are independent of one another and thus that government confidence and ideological identification represent separate sources of policy preferences. Regarding the dimension of time, the effects of presidential and congressional confidence each underwent a change after 1991. Whereas lower confidence in congressional leaders was associated with lower support for government assistance through 1991, lower support in subsequent years has had a declining impact."4 The reverse pattern is observed for presidents, with lower presidential confidence
  • 16. 1358 1 Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 FIGURE 2: Standardized Effects of Confidence in President, Confidence in Congress, and Ideological Identification for Items 1-3 0.50 - 0.50 GOVT. ASSISTANCE TO THE POOR: GOVT. ASSISTANCE TO THE POOR: Total Effects Direct Effects 0.25 0 . - . 0.25 - . ._-*t§_@A/~4 ' " 0 9 0 *-# A ,* 0.6@ u* 0.00 _ , __ 0.00 ' 0.. ' ~~ I. 0ik ' * . .. s *. * s * ¾1 w *a' -0.25 -0.25 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 0.50 .50 - GOV"T. ASSISTANCE TO BLACKS: GOVT. ASSISTANCE TO BLACKS: Total Effects Direct Effects 0.25 - 0.25 - *- -- - -- - - -- - - - - - -- - - - - - -- * * ;~ _ j ,; _ ~.5 0. _0-0 ___.__ * _ *_ __ _ _ * ; _ _ __ _ S ##_, __ _ _ 0.00 - --- --* -*- 0.00 - _,* - . .. -0.25 -0.25 - 7 76 . . . . . . 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 0.50 0 .5 0 - - - -- -- - -- - - -- -- - - -- - -- - GOVT. MEDICAL ASSISTANCE: GOVT'. MEDICAL ASSISTANCE: Total Effects Direct Effects 0 .25 r - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ---- - - 0.25 * ' */ */ * O... ... .- ~* 0 - . 00 O. ------ - - -- - --- -- O' 0.00 4 S.,. ., S .5 - .% -0.25 r . - r . _ -0.25 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 Source: D)ata are from the General Social Surveys, 1974-96.
  • 17. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1359 generally associated with higher support for government assistance prior to 1991 (but with lower support after 1991). Notwithstanding the latter points, the more important finding is that the results in Figure 2 reveal no net increase in the effects of presidential and congressional confidence during the 21-year period covered by the analyses. We emphasize that these effects are small in magnitude while also being independent of the (larger) effects of ideological identification. The comparatively larger effects of ideological identification are useful in establishing a baseline against which to gauge the relative magnitude of goverrnent confidence. More specifically, the results in Figure 2 demonstrate that the small coefficients for presidential and congressional confidence cannot be attributed solely to random measurement error in the dependent variables, given that the latter do not prevent the corresponding coefficients for ideological identification from being considerably larger in magnitude.1 5 Corroborating our results for the first three dependent variables, our analyses of the 24 remaining dependent variables do not reveal any consistently larger effects of presidential and congressional confidence or any trends in their association with policy preferences. These results are readily summarized using the simplified graphical displays in Figures 3 and 4. In these figures, we present the median, 10tlh percentile, and 90th percentile values for each set of standardized coefficients measuring the total effects (the charts in the first column) and direct effects (the charts in the second column) of presidential and congressional confidence. As before, coefficients greater than (or less than) a value of 0 indicate an association with policy preferences. By observing the circles designating the medians and the small rectangles designating the lower (10%) and upper (90%) percentiles, we can compare the variability of effects of presidential and congressional confidence across policy domains.16 Like the average coefficients for the first three dependent variables, the median coefficients for the total and direct effects of presidential confidence on the remaining dependent variables are generally small in magnitude, with the largest two coefficients being .09 for health care and .08 for social security. The 80% range for these coefficients shows generally modest variation, with the majority varying within a range of less than .08. As displayed in the bottom panels of Figure 3, the corresponding effects for congressional confidence are smaller and their ranges show even less variation. Given the small magnitude of these effects, differences between policy domains are not particularly noteworthy; the more important finding is instead the close proximity of many coefficients to a value of 0 (e.g., the policy domains for crime, drugs, transportation, and highways). Extending the earlier results from Figure 2, comparisons of total versus direct effects suggest the independence of the effects of presidential and congressional confidence from the corresponding effects of ideological identification. Finally, our additional examination of year-specific coefficients (using the more detailed type of chart employed in Figure 2) reveals
  • 18. 1360/ Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 no evidence for trends in the effects of presidential and congressional confidence on policy preferences. Figure 4 summarizes the total and direct effects of presidential and congressional confidence for our 12 final policy preference items. The results are similar to those summarized in Figure 3: although modest in magnitude, the effects of presidential confidence on policy preferences are generally larger than those of congressional confidence, and total and direct effects coefficients are similar for both presidential and congressional confidence. With two partial exceptions, the over time results for these items provide no evidence of a consistently large or increasing association between presidential and congressional confidence and policy preferences. The two instances of nontrivial associations relate to the effects of presidential confidence on national defense spending and on federal income taxes. With regard to defense spending preferences, its interrelationship with presidential confidence was small through 1980 but subsequently increased in size, reaching a peak of .26 in 1984 (.23 in the direct effects model). However, because this relationship declined in magnitude by the late 1980s,l7 it does little to change our overall portrait of wveak and trendless associations between government confidence and policy preferences. Coefficients for the interrelationship of presidential confidence and preferences relating to government taxes are modest in size, but they suggest a growth in magnitude during the 1990s, increasing from .03 in 1991 to .15 in 1993 and peaking at .25 in 1996. However, additional analysis of the 1998 GSS reveals a return to smaller coefficients, providing evidence that the unusually large association in 1996 does not represent an enduring trend."' CHANGES CORRESPONDING TO SHIFTS IN PARTY CONTROL Taken as a whole, the above results present a highly consistent portrait of the effects of presidential and congressional confidence on policy preferences as small and as having little relationship to the corresponding effects of ideological identification. However, to fully evaluate the regime effects thesis, we analyze in greater detail whether over time changes in coefficients' sign or magnitude correspond to changes in party control of the House of Representatives or the presidency. With regard to the presidency, we find that approximately 75% of shifts in party control were accompanied by a change in coefficients' sign or magnitude. However, we also find a largernumber of changes occurring within the same presidential administration (or within two administrations controlled by the same party's president). Indeed, the latter represent 64% of all changes in coefficients' sign or magnitude (thus representing a more commoni type of change than changes corresponding to switches in party control). We obtain similar findings with respect to changes involving congressional confidence, with more changes in coefficients (72%) occurring before the election
  • 19. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. 1 1361 FIGURE 3: Median and lOth/9Oth Percentiles for Standardized Effects of Presidential and Congressional Confidence for Items 4-15 0.50 - 0.50 r-I---------I------------.-- .-. PRESIDENTIAL CONFIDENCE: PRESIDENTIAL CONFIDENCE. Total Effects Direct Effects 0.25 0.25 4 0.00 - ) iT T I I Tj 0.00 * i- i- . -0.25 - -025 .EZ~~~SJA Z I 6!Z -. 3 6!2'I -- 9~~~~.11k 0.50 - 0.50 T - -- - ---------- ----- - - CONGRESSIONAL CONFIDENCE: CONGRESSIONAL CONFIDENCE: Total Effects Direct Effects 0.25 ±- ---- . 0.25 4 - ------------ 1-I------ I I-------- ! - 0. * * ; i i T _ I 0.00 .Lj .LI 0.00 I -i i * 1T 1 -0.25 i 1 9 I .1 A m I= 11 .S.,u I m.V ix: ', I I fi f S5 2 br ce s > = Source: Data are from the General Social Surneys, 1974 -96.
  • 20. 1362 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 FIGURE 4: Median and lOth/9Oth Percentiles for Standardized Effects of Presidential and Congressional Confidence for Items 16-27 0.50 r---- ----------11---------- - --- . ..- - 0.50 T- ---- ---------- ---- --- -- PRESIDENTIAL CONFIDENCE: PRESIDENTIAL CONFIDENCE: Total Effects Direct Effects o0.25 5- -- -- -- -- -- - - - 0.25 r ---------- - - -T I 0.00 * ,- A- -I- - i - 7 I i I -0.25 1 r ---- - - -0.25 .- --- - -. s. = e W. ? ? P. 4 0' X 2 A I Ai 'Z ' *2 ; t '.0 t _ *i 93 * A , Ig v. e 9 , 0.50 - 0.50 r------------------ CONGRESSIONAL CONFIDENCE: CONGRESSIONAL CONFIDENCE: Total Effects Direct Effects 0.25 + - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - 0.25 - - - - - - - --- -- --- --- T T1 I. . 0T 1 Is ; |L i I 0.00 0.00 -.--- -_-- -- --P T -- -- -- -- --- - -- I sT _ -~~~~~~~~~~-- -0.25 -0.25 M 9 u A -6 c- 9 I 9 t g, %, .M1 I*! .1 1- -BI 4 At I I < .; a .%2 ,I is a9 2j. f < A 9 'M -1 -, t.'I M S. - A I E I "I. 2 , - t t t t .9 t t , 'i. i t ii. I " 2 3 .4 & 2 W . t ,, Source: Data are from the General Social Surveys, 1974 -96.
  • 21. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1363 of the 104th Congress (i.e., during the pre-1995 period of Democratic control). While some changes in congressional (or presidential) confidence may be related to political scandals (Paxton 1999) or economic change (Lawrence 1997), their primary relevance to the current study stems from our larger finding that most changes occur within periods of party control, thereby deviating from the expectations of the regime effects thesis. We discuss below implications for competing interpretations of government confidence. Discussion Although competing interpretations of declining government confidence provide divergent answers to important questions about pressures for the devolution of federal policy-making authority, contemporary debates are inconclusive because of the underdeveloped state of empirical research. Indeed, the most prominent statements (Greenberg 1995; Morris 1998; Skocpol 1996; see also Brinkley 1997) suggest provocative hypotheses without attempting to directly measure the impact of changing levels of government confidence. Our analysis addresses the limitations of these commentaries and of past studies (e.g., Jennings 1998; Miller 1974a) by distinguishing between theoretically relevant aspects of government confidence and policy domains, analyzing data over a longer and more recent time period than covered in past research, and considering a wide range of policy domains. As a result, we are able to test hypotheses implied by competing interpretations of government confidence. Because it implies a strong relationship between government confidence and policy preferences, the devolution thesis is not supported by our analyses. Underlying the devolution thesis is the assumption that low levels of confidence in government are related to citizens' preferred level of involvement by the federal government in policy-making activities. If the devolution thesis were true, there should be a large association by the 1990s between government confidence and policy preferences, but we find no such evidence across numerous policy domains. Not only is the relationship between government confidence and policy preferences small in magnitude, but only one of the twenty-seven policy domains we analyze is even remotely close to approximating a trend toward increasing association. Given the large number of policy domains and relatively long time period covered by our analyses, these results put the burden of proof on proponents of the devolution thesis. Our analyses provide qualified support for the regime effects thesis that shifts in party control contribute to changes in the impact of presidential and congressional confidence. However, because there are even more numerous instances of such changes occurring without shifts in party control, the regime effects thesis is a limited guide to understanding these changes. Moreover, because
  • 22. 1364 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 the effects of presidential and congressional confidence are typically small in magnitude, changes between presidential administrations or sessions of Congress have few consequences for the interrelationship of government confidence and policy preferences. Taken as a whole, our results favor the symbolic change thesis. The evidence is especialy noteworthy in that it takes into account the widest possible range of policy domains over a long time period in which t-he salience of government distrust might itself have increased, thereby disposing individuals to weigh more heavily their confidence level when evaluating current or prospective federal policies. We also emphasize that our study analyzes measures of government confidence and policy preferences whose reliability and validity are well established. Indeed, we build from past research by analyzing the same two items used in Lipset and Schneider's (1983, 1987) seminal study of trends in government confidence, as well as nine of the core items used by Stimson and his colleagues to measure policy preferences (Stimson 1989) and their relationship to changes in public policv (Stimson, Mackuen & Erikson 1995). Our results extend and refine Lipset and Schneider's (1983) interpretation of public confidence in government. Lipset and Schneider viewed declining government confidence as a largely symbolic phenomenon, produced by changing patterns of media coverage but not indicative of dissatisfaction with political institutions or with the direction of public policy-making. However, they nevertheless offered some qualifications based on their analysis proceeding no further than the early 1980s, concluding that any further decline could be indicative of "signs of deep and serious discontent" (1983:412). In doing so, Lipset and Schneider (1987; see also Schneider 1992) allowed for a scenario in which symbolic distrust could later evolve into substantial dissatisfaction with the federal government and possibly even pressure for the devolution of policy-making authority. We go beyond Lipset and Schneider's study by directly analyzing the interrelationship of government confidence and policy preferences. Because our analyses also cover the post-1980 period, they provide evidence that government distrust has not evolved into substantial policy dissatisfaction since that time. In particular, our results suggest that contemporary policy conflicts over such issues as health care reform and the House Republicans' Contract with America did not provide individuals with cues to develop closer connections between their level of government confidence and their preference for governnment activism.1 9 Moreover, despite long-standing, negative attitudes toward Congress (Hibbing & Theiss-Morse 1995), congressional confidence tends to have an even smaller association with policy preferences than presidential confidence. Taken as a whole, these results provide little grounds for expecting a larger association between confidence in government and policy preferences in the immediate future. Given that the focus of both this study and of contemporary debates are on policy preferences, further
  • 23. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. J 1365 research may be able to shed light on the possibility that government confidence is related to other processes or outcomes. DECLINING GOVERNMENT CONFIDENCE AND CONTEMPORARY WELFARE STATE RETRENCHMENT In assessing whether declining confidence might hav,e created public support for devolution, we can think of no more convincing evidence than a strong association between individuals' level of confidence in the federal govermment and their level of support for govermment involvement across numerous policy domains. Indeed, in light of evidence for the interrelationship of public opinion and public policy discussed in our introduction to this article (see Burstein 1998 for review), such an association would indicate that declining confidence could contribute to the devolution scenario by affecting the public's preferred levels of federal involvement in policy-making. However, given our findings of a consistently small relationship between government confidence and policy preferences, we find no evidence that declining confidence can be a major contributor to this scenario. Over the past decade, conflicts over such reforms as Ronald Reagan's New Federalism proposal and the transformation of federal welfare programs through the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act have given rise to a burgeoning literature on welfare state retrenchment (Palmer & Sawhill 1982; Skocpol 1996; Zylan & Soule 2000; Weaver 1986; see also Grant 1995). Within this literature, an important proposition developed by Pierson (1994, 1996; see also Conlan 1988) is that public support for specific policies constrains the capacity of government officials to trim entitlements or limit federal spending, potentially explaining the absence of more extensive patterns of retrenchment in the current era. Indeed, a large body of opinion research has found consistently high levels of support for many types of public social provision (including education, health, and social security), with liberal trends outnumbering conservative trends2 0 during the past two decades (Davis 1992; DiMaggio, Evans & Bryson 1996; Page & Shapiro 1992; Smith 1990). In this context, our results have two noteworthy points of relevance to research Oni welfare state retrenchment. First, while some political commentators have assumed that devolution of federal policy-making authority to the states or local government would help restore public confidence (Nye 1997), our findings of a consistently small association between government confidence and policy preferences cast doubt on this assumption. The causal status of these two factors is, of course, inconclusive in our cross-sectional analyses, but the absence of a large relationship by itself suggests that federal program cuts or more extensive retrenchment would do little to enhance public confidence in presidents or congressional leaders. 21 Second, we emphasize that neither research on welfare state retrenchment nor the literature on public opinion and policy change has analyzed the role of
  • 24. 1366 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 confidence in government. However; our finding that support for federal involvement is consistent with high levels of public distrust of government suggests that the explanation for contemporary patterns of retrenchment is to be found elsewhere (see also Zylan & Soule 2000). Accordingly, while low levels of confidence in presidents and congressional leaders show little sign of receding, there is little evidence that they contribute to, or provide a mandate for, comprehensive retrenchment at the federal level. Low levels of government confidence instead appear to be compatible with public unwillingness to limit many government programs. Notes 1. The literature on government confidence equates confidence and trust - an assumption buttressed by findings that survey respondents' most common definition of "confidence" involves reference to "trust" (Smith & Taylor 1979). 2. Note, however, that two recent studies within this literature have also reported a small but significant decline in this relationship (Jacobs & Shapiro 1997; Monroe 1998), suggesting that the divergence of federal policy-making from public opinion has increased during the past fifteen years. 3. Although a majority of research has relied on National Election Survey (NES) data (e.g., Citrin 1974; Hetheringtoni 1998, 1999; Jennings 1998; Miller 1974a), the GSS items have a number of desirable features (discussed below) that distinguish them from the single NES item used in previous studies. Our analysis of the NES data yielded consistent results, and we present the results fromi the GSS analysis in light of the considerably broader set of findings that the GSS data vield. 4. Our analysis of the GSS data begins with the 1974 survey, the first in which a number of items central to our analyses were fielded. We note that the GSS was not fielded in 1979, 1981, 1992, and 1995 and that since 1988 the GSS has employed a rotating, split- ballot design. Because of the periodic availability of several items, some of our models span the years 1974 to 1996 while others span the years 1984 to 1996. As discussed in the results section, the differences have little effect on our inferences by virtue of the consistency of the results over time and across policy domains. 5. We investigated whether treating these items as categorical covariates would yield different estimates of their association with policy preferences. Given clear evidence to the contrary, we present the results using the less cumbersome, interval-level measurement. 6. We assume that individuals' levels of confidence in presidents and in congressional leaders represent separate phenomena. Bivariate analyses of the two GSS confidence items provide evidence supporting this assumption, with the average correlation coefficient being .41 (with a high of .51 in 1978 and a low of .33 in 1975). Such values are also well below the -. 75 threshold past which collinearity would be a problem in multivariate analyses.
  • 25. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. / 1367 7. In Table 1, the nine items are 1, 3-5, 7-10, and 18. 8. The twelve years are 1975, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990,1991,1993,1994, and 1996. 9. These domains relate to health care, welfare, social security, education, African Americans, cities, environmental protection, fighting crime, drug addiction, transportation, infrastructure, parks, foreign aid, national defense, and federal income tax. As summarized in Table 1, the federal income tax item is also trichotomous but has slightly different response category labels and question wording. We note that the inclusion of this item is instructive in light of Scholz and Lubell's (1998) evidence that distrust of government may dispose individuals to resist paying income tax. 10. For health care, welfare, education, African Americans, cities, environmental protection, drug addiction, foreign aid, and national defense, the available years are 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1994, and 1996. As discussed in the results section, the remaining six items are available in a smaller number of the GSS surveys. 11. These items (and their survey years) are job provision (1989, 1989, 1991, and 1996), social security and health care (1990 and 1996), unemployment assistance (1989, 1989, and 1996), housing provision and educational opportunities (1990 and 1996), income inequality (1990, 1991, and 1996), and industrial assistance and inflation control (1990 and 1996). 12. Given the magnitude of black/nonblack differences in policy attitudes, we conducted a search for interaction effects between race and government confidence. As illustrated in the Appendix (which presents models with these interaction effects for an illustrative dependent variable), these analyses provide little evidence for significant interactions. 13. We conducted additional analyses for interaction effects between ideological identification and government confidence but found no significant interactions. 14. Given the Republican Party's congressional majorit,y after the 1994 midterm elections, a change of sign (but not magnitude) for the coefficient would indicate individuals' awareness of this change in party control. However, the results in Figure 2 suggest that the declining association of congressional confidence and policy preferences was under way before the 1994 election. 15. The small magnitude of the effects of presidential and congressional confidence can be further appreciated through a comparison with the corresponding effects of the well- known black/nonblack cleavage in policy preferences (Erikson & Tedin 1995; Tate 1993). For our first three dependent variables, the average total effects coefficient for the dichotomous race variable is -.25, a figure well in excess of the large majority of the corresponding coefficients for government confidence. Indeed, in only 2 cases (discussed below) out of more than 500 is the coefficient for presidential or congressional confidence equal to or greater than an absolute value of .25 (the large majority have a value of less than .10). To call attention to these findings we use .25 intervals on all figures' y-axes. 16. Because our analyses of items 4-27 show no trends in coefficients, Figures 3-4 do not present the year-specific estimates, relying instead on summary box-plots. Eight
  • 26. 1368 / Social Forces 79:4, June 2001 graphical displays with the detailed year-specific coefficients of the sort used in Figure 2 are available from the authors. 17. In 1989, the total effects coefficient for presidential conifidence was . 3, declining further to-.01 in 1993. 18. The standardized coefficient for the total effects of presidential confidence on government taxes in 1998 (.17) is c)mparable to the corresponding coefficient from 1994 (.15) and considerably smaller than the 1996 coefficient (.25). The effects of congressional confidence on tax preferences in 1998 are small and nonsignificant (-.04 and -.03 for total and direct effects estimates). 19. These conclusions fit well with Pauxton's (1999) study of social capital, which finds that the interrelationships of confidence in educational leaders, confidence in religious leaders, and confidence in leaders of government institutions have been stable since the early 1970s. 20. Conservative opinion trends include increased support since the ]i960s for punitive measures regarding crime (Erikson & Tedin 1995) and decreasing support in the 1990s for public spending on welfare (Smith 1995). 21. The risks of interpreting low levels of government confidence as implying public support for devolution can also be appreciated by considering a contemporary historical example. Buttressed by their congressional majority following the 1994 elections, Speaker Newt Gingrich and a large segment of House Republicans promulgated their 10-point Contract with America, citing low confidence in government as providing a mandate for transferring policy-making authority from the federal government to the states. The public's subsequent response appears to have been- largely negative (National Journal 1996), reflecting support for many existing government programs and later disposing the majority of the public to blame House Republicans for the 1995 shutdown of the federal government (Abramson, Aldrich & Rohde 1998).
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  • 29. Declining Government Confidence in the U.S. 11371 . 4 rs Ln C- C-s rn 90 -t 0cr 0 to o CO- mOO=cr OC oN c_, - 00O~~~~~r0- 0000 - ClVI 0~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~0 z~~~~~~1 I9+Ot 00 In fnO rN ONN WiCs n un 0 N- cn Xp O a 00 00- D0, C CO r1q o Oo 0 en00 0-00c =00 CnLn Pa~~ ** ** ** II .0 0 Dq 8N OC l0oC, e Ili Cl oo t o cr Cl S~~~~~~~~ III 0t:O O tN 0. mO, °= C, °, "O t Ct 2 N* *t * ** *O X*O W5 m Dou~rq n -oI tsteO t0 c, r, Co~ Ln COCN. O O o o o caE = o o 1) O [I,,, O $ I 0 * * I It * C1 *- p Cq en Ci Cl 0O. .O, O -0N _ o0 ~ o Cl , C lIt r 0 COO 0 0s * * * X* ot'nmx ~~cf~ 000tfn =~ =0 C 0! Ce %0) Pw Q va o o. o n oc 0o I sn z;I as lC Cl f-C 0 7 CA o c1 _ CD - - o 6 N Ux O ° en0 Qi o ,. . ,t .n . . . . V,0 ~C14 0 ~ q0 fn<>. 0O C O0 eC U UN Cl i:~ O ~~~~~~~C -OONG ZO O O - - o~~~~~' -,5- x x c otO Sf o.~~~~~~~02~~~t Q o ~0. 0 o -0 00 z 00I) q v7 8 E= a =~~~~~~
  • 30. 1372 Social Forces 79:41 June 2001 II N 0 t N. N. r'- o oe o 0 co 00 .- O~ U^ '0 N N. rto In NI n In 00o 000 In In 0 00-00 000 0 0sr r-", - r - o s oo onvoo( 0. O0 O 0. 0 o o0 On O0 O~ 0 N. In CI C~N a£ D m C 08 'S m t' N O to Q 0 00 0 '.0~~~ 0' DOI0"ICC IN. :s " ' '. 1. . 1' 1- . . . *. ' I e o C> oo r, C, I.m O CO 'O xD OOO NI CO o . o C Lfl0o e U~~~~~~. n0r. W c9 )ooo<oooooo.n ci~~'~ 000In000000-~n I S! o Nr o * . * *oo *n no Uf t o- ~~ 0CO~~00I 0900 N.NNIN---- n N.0NI 00~ Z3 0- NON. 0 n .I*C i r C)~~~C Lno O O t to OH 00 5< i i 1- O Lr O °O 0 ) NIN.'0CO ICOI - -I- W ^ D QG NI-N O N.o NI t N O N t~~-I cD, (0NNC7 O Cn t, 1 n s~~~~ L- X, 0r o o <o r ~ ~ ~ N . 0 I N I' _N 0I NI 0 I4.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~N ;-fs t Ov O O O * O o o o, , ¢ ~~ ~ ~~~D>7t£ Ca n4 <.t o ~ 000 000t .~0 j0 O 0 N 0N o. 0 t 0 ' 0 I0 It VI E~~~~~~~~~~~~ U * . O. O , Ou . . * r >W. o 00 ,, H >. , a ,<;0 - ko;zIS N *
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  • 34. COPYRIGHT INFORMATION TITLE: Declining government confidence and policy preferences in the U.S.: devolution, regime effects, or symbolic change? SOURCE: Social Forces 79 no4 Je 2001 WN: 0115300654003 The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. Copyright 1982-2001 The H.W. Wilson Company. All rights reserved.