Orientational Profiles: a Method for Micro-Macro Analysis of Attitude

Published date01 December 1971
Date01 December 1971
Subject MatterArticles
Portland State University
OBJECT of this paper is to present a methodological scheme that will
take full advantage of the potential of the concept of political orientations
to action as introduced by Talcott Parsons and Edward Shils and developed
by Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba.1 This scheme was applied in a study of
the political orientations of Japanese Americans in Portland, Oregon, in 1968.2
This is a study of attitudes, more exactly, interrelated fabrics of attitudes
reflecting particular patterns of mental constructs which may be called orienta-
tions to action. Three separate constituents of these orientations may be analyti-
cally distinguished; the cognitive, affective, and evaluative. The particular ingredi-
ent of positive, negative, or neutral content of these elements of orientation set
apart individuals in orientational categories such as participant, subject, and
parochial, allegiant, and alienated. The mix of such orientations gives distinguish-
ing character to the politics of a society and manifests the political culture of that
The literature of political science is lacking in any systematic application of
the concept of orientation to the individual. Almond and Verba claim that the
&dquo;connecting link between micro- and macropolitics is political culture&dquo; 3 and its
component concepts, including orientation, and they indicate an intention to apply
the concept of orientation to that purpose 4 However, their thrust in The Civic
Culture is diverted into a less ambitious application. While they often use the term
in comparing aggregates of single variables in one nation with those of another,
this is hardly microana.lysis at the level of the individual or macroanalysis of sys-
tems. It will be shown below that what success this approach of theirs has is based
on a misuse of the term &dquo;orientation.&dquo;
It may be that fools enter where the wise fear to tread, but certainly the
orientation schema, defined as it is in terms of the individual, can be more or less
valid and useful as it is more or less successfully applied as a device for typing
individuals. Once an aggregate of a certain type of individual is available, the
characteristics of that type may be identified, and as various other types are identi-
fied and proportions of various types to the whole measured, the characteristics of
that political culture may be more specifically portrayed. Almond and Verba say
almost the same thing, but the difference is crucial. A fatal logical fallacy may be
seen in their claim that
NOTE: The author is indebted to the Political Science Department of North Texas State
University for providing time and funds for the preparation of this paper.
Talcott Parsons and Edward A. Shils, eds., Toward a General Theory of Action (New
York: Harper & Row, 1962) (Harper Torchbook Edition), p. 4. Gabriel Almond and
Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963).
Ralph E. Bunch, "The Political Orientations of Japanese Americans" (Ph.D. dissertation,
University of Oregon, 1968), p. 87.
Almond and Verba, op. cit., p. 33.

Ibid., p. 17.

The political culture becomes the frequency of different kinds of cognitive, affective, and
evaluative orientations toward the political system in general, its input and output aspects,
and the self as political actor.... Characterizing the political culture of a nation means, in
effect, filling in such a matrix for a valid sample of its population. The political culture
becomes the frequency of different kinds of cognitive, affective, and evaluative orientations
toward the political system, its input and output aspects, and the self as political actor.5
In stating that the frequency of different kinds of various orientations in a
valid sample can characterize the political culture, Almond and Verba seem to be
saying that a total of so many incidences of variables a, b, c, and d, regardless of
their situs in individuals from which they were abstracted, will provide a particular
type of political culture. Instead, it must be argued that this summation of parts
is quite likely to be unequal to the whole. But the manner in which they have
applied these concepts in comparisons between nations bears out the conclusion
that they hold valid the abstracting of one-twelfth (three &dquo;orientations&dquo; x four
objects = twelve components) of a respondent’s profile for comparison purposes.
And this is defensible for superficial comparison. But it does not seem defensible to
assert that this is a valid and complete bridge between micro- and macropolitics.
To settle for this would amount to a partial and expensive cancellation of the value
inherent in the orientation schema. First, let the following example explain the
fallacy more clearly. Then a restructuring of the schema to tap its full potential
will follow.
Let the &dquo;valid sample of the population&dquo; be the following individuals, and
let their orientational profiles be:
It will be noted that each orientational profile consisting of twelve components
is different. Also, the example, for simplicity, restricts itself...

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