Amateurs and professionals: a study of political activists at the 1976 Republican National Convention

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The objective of this thesis was to utilize the Amateur-Professional typology, as defined by James Q. Wilson, to examine party activism among delegates to the 1976 Republican National Convention. Specifically, correlations between socio-economic variables, political socialization experiences, and the incentives which motivated the delegates were to be studied.

The first hypothesis was tested by crosstabulating the Amateur- Professional Index with the traditional socio-economic characteristics. Essentially, the data confirmed past research which indicated that socio-economic variables are not significantly related to activist style.

The second hypothesis examined the relationships between activist style and family political activity, agents of initial political socialization, years of activity in the party, past convention experience, and perception of their role as a delegate. The results produced tended to indicate that those delegates with politically active families, more years active in the party, greater participation in past conventions and a more "person" rather than "issue" orientation, were likely to be more professionally oriented than the delegates who possessed an opposite political background. This finding was essentially in keeping with past research and therefore confirmed the hypothesis.

The last hypothesis examined the delegates' preferences for incentives for maintaining their party activity. Although most delegates expressed a greater preference for purposive rather than material incentives, it was found that more amateurs preferred purposive incentives, while more professionals preferred the material incentives. This finding was consistent with previous research and the hypothesis was confirmed.