Journal Article

Abstract Principle Versus Concrete Interest: A Study of Education and Political Opinion in Hong Kong

Joseph Man Chan, Kenneth K. L. Chau and Francis L. F. Lee

in International Journal of Public Opinion Research

Published on behalf of World Association for Public Opinion Research

Volume 14, issue 1, pages 54-72
Published in print March 2002 | ISSN: 0954-2892
Published online March 2002 | e-ISSN: 1471-6909 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ijpor/14.1.54
Abstract Principle Versus Concrete Interest: A Study of Education and Political Opinion in Hong Kong

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Education is one of the fundamental forces shaping people's political opinions. Past studies in the West have shown that education increases people's support for abstract democratic principles, but not necessarily for concrete policies implementing these principles. This article examines the impact of education in Hong Kong. Do people with different education levels hold different opinions regarding abstract social principles? How do people's support for principles and their self‐interest affect their policy opinions? The right of abode controversy in 1999 provides a test case for these questions. Drawing on two surveys, we found that tertiary education (college) had an enlightening effect on people's support and application of social principles in Hong Kong, especially during the early stage of the controversy. Tertiary education was negatively related to people's concern for self‐interest, and for people with a secondary level of education, the relationship between adherence to principles and opinion was weakest, and they show the strongest concern for their own interest. The findings can be explained by referring to both theoretical perspectives and situational factors such as the underdevelopment of democracy in Hong Kong and the shortcomings of civic education in its school system.

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Subjects: Communication Studies ; Marketing ; Media and Communication ; Political Behaviour ; Social Research and Statistics

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