Most research suggests that changes in political preferences and public opinion are
similar for all social groups. I investigate the possibility that prior views of
the world, or "ideology," affect responses to new information, and hence changes
in opinion. I focus on one type of ideology, levels of class consciousness, using
data from opinion surveys of British manual workers in the election years of 1964,
1966, and 1970. Results from a latent class model indicate that changes in political
and economic opinions vary with degree of class consciousness. Workers who identified
with the working class but held negative attitudes toward unions became considerably
more pessimistic about economic conditions and the policies of the Labour Party.
This group's behavior may represent either instrumentalism or a perceived conflict
between the interests of the working class and the interests of society as a whole.
These results cast doubt on conventional views of the relationship between workers'
economic interests and support for parties of the left.