Whether for good or ill, the study of urban politics has now been heavily influenced by what is called “ethos theory.” Although ethos theory lends itself to varied interpretations, it clearly sets forth two constructs, “public regardingness” and “private regardingness,” which characterize different voter orientations. One common formulation of the theory is that in weighing proposed public expenditures some voters are oriented primarily toward self or family advantage, and some toward community good. People who first ask themselves, “What good will this expenditure do me or my family?” are called private regarding. People who first ask, “What good will it do the community?” are called public regarding. In other words, ethos involves dispositions toward spending for public services. Presumably felt obligation toward others leads to a preference for bigger public expenditures, while felt obligation toward self or family leads to the opposite preference. Private regardingness, however, is not exactly synonymous with selfishness. Both obligation toward oneself (or one's family) and toward the community may be rationalizations of self interest. The point seems to be that each ethos implies a set of policy preferences, and that knowledge of voters' adherence to one ethos or the other provides summary information about their policy preferences.
* An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the 1969 meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, Miami. Computing was done at the University of Georgia under a grant from the University's Office of General Research. The authors appreciate comments on an earlier draft by Professors James Q. Wilson, Roger Hanson, Harrell Rodgers, and Julius Sloan.