Characteristics of the new social class and tendencies in political attitudes

The new social class is a product of reform and opening up and has an inherent characteristic of openness. Openness implies equality of opportunity for members of society, and equality of opportunity mainly refers to the fact that the identity and status of the new social class is open to all members of society and is determined by one’s own abilities, qualities and grasp of opportunities (Liu, 2003). In addition, the new social class is characterized by its complexity and diversity, which, taken together, are mainly reflected in its demographic composition, values, occupational characteristics and behavioral orientation. In terms of demographic composition, the new social class has a complex composition, with a generally higher level of education and income, and is concentrated in the non-public sphere, namely the new economic and social organizations. In terms of values, the new social class has differences in ideology and value orientation, with diversity and complexity; in terms of occupational characteristics, the new social class exhibits characteristics such as mobility, riskiness and instability; in terms of behavioral orientation, members of the new social class have a strong sense of competition and innovation, and tend to be more active thinkers (Zhang et al„ 2016: 117). The above characteristics have a relatively large impact on the orientation of the political attitudes of the new social class. In terms of political attitudes, since members of the new social class group are of higher overall innate quality and have relatively strong economic capacities, their sense of political participation and willingness to express their interests are also stronger.

Measurement of political attitude

The term political attitude was originally proposed by American psychologist Gordon Allport. He argued that political attitudes are a psychological or physiological organization composed of political cognition, political emotion, and political behavioral tendencies that are used to guide or influence individual responses to relevant political goals and simations (Allport, 1935). Political attitudes are an important political-psychological phenomenon that emerges from the intersection of the socio-political environment and the process of political socialization of the individual, reflecting the way people view political phenomena and react to them (Almond et al„ 1996: 46). In Chinese academic circles, some scholars define political attitudes as the cognitive, emotional and behavioral tendencies of politicians towards political goals and political situations. Under this definition, political goals include the political system as a whole, the various roles in the political system, the role bearers, the role of oneself in the political system, political regulation and the inputs and outputs in the political system. Political situation refers to the political situation in a specific time and space. Political cognition is the process by which individuals speculate and judge the intrinsic properties of political goals and external features of political situations based on their perceptions of them. Political emotions are preferences, evaluations, and reactions to political goals and political situations. These reactions are presented in terms of likes and dislikes, and are either based on perceptions or formed by simplifying political goals and political contexts. Political behavior tendency refers to the tendency to take action to achieve political goals under a specific political environment (Wang, 2001).

With regard to indicators of socio-political attitudes, scholars have focused on the measurement of political attitudes of the intermediate strata of society. Li Chunling mainly used three dimensions, namely satisfaction, authoritative identity, and social justice awareness, and further operationalized these three dimensions into personal life satisfaction, social life satisfaction, government trust, authoritative identity, inequality perception index, and conflict awareness index (Li, 2011). Sun and Lei (2012) operationalized the concept of political attitude into four dimensions: authoritarianism, social satisfaction, liberalism and social equity. In addition, Li and Zhong (2015) analyzed the basic patterns of Chinese people's political values and their changing trends since the reform and opening up around the five dimensions of political preference, government preference, political importance, government trust and political compliance.

Drawing on existing research, this article uses the five dimensions of government trust, perceived social security, rights awareness, recognition of authority, and inequality awareness, to measure the political attitudes of new social classes.

 
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