Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Community organization -- Citizen participation, Poor -- Oregon -- Portland -- Political activity



Physical Description

3, xx, 277 leaves: ill. 28 cm.


Federally mandated citizen participation has been controversial since its inception in 1964. It has been as difficult to implement in practice as it has been to define conceptually. An examination of the literature related to this federally mandated citizen participation uncovers a number of untested assumptions relating to the individual political behavior of those for whom participation is mandated. This literature concentrates on forms of organized group participation, and the direct action of these groups in the planning and policy-making process, but it tends to ignore the fact that participation in the organized neighborhood groups advocated is essentially an individual political decision. Also ignored is the substantial body of research and literature related to individual political behavior which generally finds that levels and rates of participation are a function of socio-economic factors. This well established research suggests those for whom participation is mandated--residents of low income and low socio-economic status neighborhoods--are the least likely to become politically active. The general weakness of this body of research and literature, which is based largely on the electoral process, is that it fails to adequately explain or predict the significant levels of participation actually exhibited by lower income and lower socio-economic status individuals in the War on Poverty, Model Cities, and similar programs. A more holistic model of political behavior based on social-psychological concepts allows a much broader view of the elements which may contribute to this more non-traditional type of political behavior. Such a model has been developed by Robert Lane and others. It suggests perceptual and attitudinal variables which may be especially useful in explaining and/or predicting the participation of lower socio-economic status individuals in these programs. These perceptual and attitudinal variables, and their relationships to political participation, are the focus of the research undertaken in this dissertation. Through a random sample household interview survey, a study of the perceptual and attitudinal variables associated with resident participation in elections, issues, and neighborhood groups was undertaken in two low income neighborhoods in the City of Portland, Oregon. The survey results suggest that individuals active in neighborhood groups and issues are not necessarily the same individuals highly involved in traditional electoral activity. These survey results indicate a number of perceptual and attitudinal variables significantly associated with participation in neighborhood groups and issues: (1) the perception of the existence of neighborhood problems; (2) salience of perceived neighborhood problems; (3) feelings of personal and/or group efficacy in doing something about the specific problems perceived; (4) perception of the social and political nature of identified neighborhood problems; (5) attitudes toward the value of participation as a desired end in itself; and (6) attitudes toward voting, petitioning, collective action, non-violent protest, and violent protest as approved and effective means to solve neighborhood problems. The survey results also indicate systematic differences in the perceptual and attitudinal variables associated with the participation of Black and White survey respondents. White participation appears to be much more highly related to the perception of neighborhood problems than Black participation. Whites in the study appear to participate as a means to solve problems they perceive in their neighborhood, while participation seems to be more an end in itself for the Blacks surveyed. The results of the survey tend to validate important elements of a social-psychological model of political behavior. The results also suggest that more attention needs to be focused on the relationships between individuals' perceptions of their environment and political behavior.


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Portland State University. School of Urban Affairs.

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