Existing research on public attitudes towards agricultural production systems is largely descriptive, abstracting from the processes through which members of the general public generate their evaluations of such systems. The present paper adopts a systems perspective on such evaluations, understanding them as embedded into a wider attitude system that consists of attitudes towards objects of different abstraction levels, ranging from personal value orientations over general socio-political attitudes to evaluations of specific characteristics of agricultural production systems. It is assumed that evaluative affect propagates through the system in such a way that the system becomes evaluatively consistent and operates as a schema for the generation of evaluative judgments. In the empirical part of the paper, the causal structure of an attitude system from which people derive their evaluations of pork production systems was modelled. The analysis was based on data from a cross-national survey involving 1931 participants from Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Poland. The survey questionnaire contained measures of personal value orientations and attitudes towards environment and nature, industrial food production, food and the environment, technological progress, animal welfare, local employment and local economy. In addition, the survey included a conjoint task by which participants' evaluations of the importance of production system attributes were measured. The data were analysed by means of causal search algorithms and structural equation models. The results suggest that evaluative judgments of the importance of pork production system attributes are generated in a schematic manner, driven by personal value orientations. The effect of personal value orientations was strong and largely unmediated by attitudes of an intermediate level of generality, suggesting that the dependent variables in the particular attitude system that was modelled here can be understood as value judgments in a literal sense.
Copyright © 2012. Published by Elsevier Ltd.