Connecticut's political culture regarding higher education utilizing Elazar's political culture typology

Date of Completion

January 1997


Education, Sociology of|Political Science, General|Education, Higher




Connecticut is a state of high per capita income, quality of life, and educational attainment. Yet, despite these economic values and capacity, spending for higher education remains well below most measures of potential investment and actual effort, in good economic times and bad.^ Given this apparent contradiction, the purpose of this study was to determine what embedded core attitudes among policymakers shaped state higher education funding. The study also considered whether Elazar's (1984) model of political culture provided a meaningful framework for explication of political attitudes and behavior among policymakers regarding funding.^ This elite case study utilized a survey of the 187 members of the Connecticut General Assembly. Survey responses from 62% of the legislators were received and analyzed using descriptive and nonparametric statistics. Ten top legislative leaders were then interviewed to enhance the survey data and expand into additional higher education policy areas.^ The survey, interviews, and accompanying financial data were analyzed synergistically utilizing a customized higher education policy framework based on Elazar's construct of political culture. The framework incorporated the predicted orientation to the Individualistic characteristics of marketplace, economic, and individualistic values.^ Analysis confirmed Elazar's designation of Connecticut as an Individualistic political subculture with a Moralistic strain and further extended this policy orientation to the state's higher education policy arena. Connecticut's marketplace orientation was evidenced by policy values of loose governance, low state appropriations, and support for private collegiate institutions. Economic values were exemplified by legislative frustration with public higher education's lack of coordination, excessive duplication, competition, and wasteful management. Values of individual motivation, benefit, and responsibility tended to view higher education as highly personalized and less public policy-oriented priority.^ Ameliorating these individualistic policy values was a moralistic undercurrent of deference to bureaucracy and belief in universal low cost public higher education. On balance, however, legislative opinion appears to be influenced by an Individualistic political culture that is not particularly engaged by the moralistic appeals of higher education. ^