Cognitive dissonance and voter behavior toward school budgets Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/6m311s42b

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  • Problem School districts need information on how to better communicate with voters because budgets are being defeated. Budgets are growing larger as schools require an increasing level of financial support to respond to societal changes. This research focused primarily on the published school budget because in the state of Oregon the present basis for communicating with voters is primarily through the school budget. The study attempts to determine: (1) how the present and modified budget format were used by undecided voters. (2) if it was possible to identify the undecided voter by common characteristics, and attitudes toward education and school expenditures. V (3) if the typical undecided voter possesses a common value structure which will provide school boards with clues for improving communication procedures. Methodology Two Likert type attitude scales were generated and administered along with the Rokeach Value Scale to 358 subjects who were identified as potentially undecided (information seeking) voters by previously published research. The attitude scales were designed to identify those voters who were undecided because of conflicting attitudes concerning the need to improve schools and the need to avoid high taxes. Research has indicated that people holding conflicting attitudes will be highly receptive to information which can be used to resolve this conflict (dissonance). The 28 subjects with conflicting attitudes were identified by the initial administration of the two attitude scales and three weeks or more later were interviewed, given two different budget summary formats, asked to answer questions on the content of the budget and take the attitude tests a second time. Findings (1) The more graphic budget format did not provide significantly more intelligible data on the school budget. (2) Information communicated by the traditional budget format and a graphic variation of that format did not change the attitudes of the undecided voters. (3) The rankings of selected values were not correlated with the attitudes of subjects. (4) The undecided voters were found to possess a number of common characteristics. The undecided voter has a positive attitude toward the schools, is more often female than male, is older than the average voter, has fewer children in school and uses the newspaper as a primary source of school information. (5) In cases where the differences between the attitudes were reduced, this reduction did not create a more positive attitude toward education or school expenditures. Conclusions The present budget format is not an effective communications device. Undecided voters attitudes toward education were more positive than those of the general population used in the study. Data may be better transmitted by a partially graphic budget format, although the study showed that the data is not a significant factor in the voter's decision on the school budget. It was found that the undecided subjects were polarized in terms of their values structure. One group put a high value on freedom and equality. For the other group, the values had little significance. Implications School districts need to: (1) move toward program budgeting in order to answer the taxpayer's questions about cost effectiveness. (2) provide voters with answers regarding the effectiveness of the district's programs.
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