Session: The Influence of Political Attitudes on Social Work and Social Policy (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

6 The Influence of Political Attitudes on Social Work and Social Policy

Thursday, January 16, 2020: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Mint, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Social Work Practice (SWP)
Symposium Organizer:
Vincent Fusaro, PhD, Boston College
Kerri Nicoll, PhD, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Purpose: This symposium presents three papers on political attitudes and their influence on social policy and social work practice. Social policy is central to the well-being of social work clients, and many social workers actively work toward policy change for this reason. Policy, and the processes of designing, implementing, and changing policy, are indelibly shaped by political attitudes. Despite the centrality of political attitudes to social work policy practice, this topic has largely not been studied from a social work perspective. The three papers in this symposium--one on social work student attitudes toward social action, one on the relationship between interracial feelings of closeness and policy attitudes, and one on state variation in the salience of race and racial attitudes to policymaking--address this gap.

Method: All three studies are quantitative but use different data sources and methods. The first uses a national survey of social work students and a descriptive analysis. The second analyzes secondary data from the National Politics Study survey and quantitative modeling (multiple regression and ordinal logistic regression). The third paper uses multiple data sources including state-level policy and economic data and measures of racial salience obtained from other studies and generated for this analysis. It examines correlations of different measures of racial salience and uses OLS regression and Firth logistic regression to model state welfare policy implementation as a function of these variables.

Results: The first paper finds that social work students, regardless of practice orientation (micro or macro), perceive social action to be important or very important and feel very confident or confident engaging in such action. It also finds that students place more importance on and have greater confidence engaging in interpersonal rather than community or structural level actions. Students of color are significantly more confident than white students in their ability to engage in social action. The second paper finds that system-legitimizing racial stereotypes distance minority groups from one another and harm cross-racial support for policies that advance minority interests. It also finds partial support for the role of legitimizing myths in explaining attitudes toward affirmative action. The last paper demonstrates that different measures of the salience of race to state policy are closely related and produce similar overall patterns when used as predictors in empirical models of state policy. There are differences, however, in the statistical significance of the results using different measures that indicate caution is warranted in inference.

Implications: The papers in this symposium collectively tell us that political attitudes are central to social work policy practice. Attitudes, especially attitudes about race, shape the design of and public support for social policies. Social work educators and social workers engaging in policy action should address the nature and consequences of such attitudes in their activities.

* noted as presenting author
Social Work Student Perceptions of Social Action
Amy Krings, MSW, PhD, Loyola University of Chicago School of Social Work; Michael Dentato, PhD, Loyola University, Chicago; Susan Grossman, PhD, Loyola University, Chicago
Racial Triangulation, Interracial Closeness, and Racial Policy Attitudes
Na Youn Lee, MSW, MIA, PhD, University of Mississippi
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