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American Political Culture
  • Political Culture: A coherent and patterned way of thinking about how politics and government ought to be carried out (Wilson). The attitudes, beliefs, and values which people have towards the way a particular political system operates. Issues over economic life are included because politics affects economics (Wilson).
  • Political and economical equality vary from nation to nation, depending on that nation's cultural beliefs.
    • Examples:
      • Americans believe that people should be equal politically, but not equal economically. In other nations, people believe in both political and economical equality.
      • Most Americans believe that every citizen should have an equal chance to influence government policy or hold public office and that even those who cannot read should be permitted to vote. People don't feel as bad about someone who's poor as much here because they've had an equal chance as everyone else. In the U.S. if they didn't accomplish anything it's because of their own deficiencies.

  • Political Tolerance: Americans generally believe, at least in the abstract, that every view has a right to be expressed; this degree of tolerance is not always manifested in the concrete; however, political tolerance has increased greatly since World War II, with racial tensions decreasing and many social standards becoming less strict. This has evolved into a homogeneity of American views, where controversial issues in the past such as racial and gender equality have become the norm today.
  • A minimal level of tolerance is crucial to democratic politics. Compromises cannot be made if every sides dissent each other.

Political Socialization: How the average person gains a sense of political identity; the process begins in childhood and continues through the rest of a person's life and allows individuals to become aware of politics and form values and opinions relating to politics in general ( 5 Steps to a 5 ). (See " Sources of Political Culture ," which elaborates on how political beliefs are developed and influenced.)
  • Americans believed, in the abstract, that every citizen has an equal chance to influence government policy and we should "teach children that all people are really equal, recognizing that all people are equally worthy and deserve equal treatment" (Wilson). Unlike in England, where one tends to believe that people should only vote when they are intelligently qualified to make decisions (Wilson).
  • Even though Americans profess their beliefs, their actions are not necessarily in line with their beliefs, but with the awareness of these inconsistencies people gradually change to meet those value that they held for so long (Wilson).
  • Sources of Political Socialization:
    • Family/ Home influences (strongest when both parents identify with the same party)
    • The families views and attitudes directed towards politics are the first experience children have.
      • ~ 60% of adults hold the same party identification of their parents ( Wilson and Dilulio ).
      • Boys are more likely to maintain political views more similar to their mother's, while girls are more likely to maintain political views more similar to their father's.
  • School (teach patriotism, encourage participation in politics, educate on political structure)
  • Higher education tends to have a liberalizing affect on students (there is not such a high correlation, however, in students and graduates of doctoral programs).
  • As people age, they are more likely to become more conservative (as current studies suggest)
  • Gender can also be a factor in political ideology. Women tend to be more liberal while men tend to be more conservative.
  • Race can be a factor in political ideology
    • African Americans tend to be more democratic/liberal.
    • Hispanics tend to be democratic/liberal, except Cuban-Americans.
The United States Political System: There are at least five important elements that make up the American view of the political system.
  • Liberty: Liberty refers to the rights that an American citizen is inalienable entitled to. As Wilson suggests, "Americans are preoccupied with their rights. They believe everyone should be free to do what they want, granted they do not cause harm. Americans also support the control of businesses to keep firms from getting to powerful and to lessen corruption within these firms." (American Pageant). Most Americans advocate for a free enterprise system with some boundaries, those of government regulation; this is supported to keep a business from becoming too powerful.
  • Democracy: government should be accountable to the people, and people's view should be reflected in the government.
  • Civic Duty: A belief that one has an obligation to participate in civic and political affairs. This can be seen in the voting habits of the American population. In the United States, there is not mandatory voting laws. Americans vote during elections because they feel it is their moral obligation or responsibility to as active citizens.
  • Equality: Americans believe everybody should have an equal vote and an equal chance to participate and succeed (Wilson). Americans tend to believe in maintaining "equality of opportunity" but not so much "equality of results."
    • Americans believe in political rather than economic equality.(Wilson)
    • This is further enforced by a poll taken in 1924 in Indiana. Roughly fifty percent of high school students agreed with the statement "It is entirely the fault of the man himself if he cannot succeed". Fifty years later, the results were almost identical to the earlier poll.
    • For example, Americans favor programs that help disadvantaged people, but they are opposed to such things that seem as preferential treatment.
    • Equality of opportunity: everyone is given the chance to go to school
    • Equality of result: the government should equalize property, the distribution of wealth, and living condition of citizens.
    • A vast majority of of Americans believe that every citizen should have an equal chance to influence government policy and to hold public office.
    • A smaller majority of Americans believe there should be equality to allow voting, even if people can't read or write.
  • The capitalist economic system dominates American ideology. People generally believe that everyone should be able to take part in entrepreneurial activity with little government intervention (Laissez Faire). Americans generally have been opposed to complete socialism.
    • There is a belief in the freedom of choice in how to use resources by those who own them.
  • Individualism: Individuals, except those with certain disabilities, are responsible for their own actions and well-being
    • Americans generally believe that individuals should "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps"
    • There is a concern in regards to legitimacy for who should receive social welfare. Americans believe that only those that truly deserve help should receive it. Therefore, Americans generally oppose redistribution of income from the upper classes to lower classes.
Other characteristics include:
  • Americans feel people should have an equal chance to influence government and hold office, so they dislike allowing citizens to have titles such as "Duke".
  • Americans feel people should be able to vote even if they can't read or write (they believe this in theory, but in practice Americans and the government doesn't allow people to vote if they cannot read or write in English since it is a requirement for citizenship).
  • It is not uncommon for Americans to act contrary to their professed beliefs. Behavior is also shaped by self-interest and social circumstance, which may influence individuals' actions more so than their values. As we become more aware of this inconsistent behavior, that behavior slowly changes. (Wilson)
  • Americans believe all people are equal and deserve equal treatment
  • Americans have a greater sense of patriotism than those of other countries.
    • After September 11, 2001 the public rallied behind the president and his approval ratings rose significantly. There was also an influx of patriotism. About one-half of individuals from either the Republican or Democratic party claimed that they trusted the national government to make the correct decisions in most cases.
Comparing Political Cultures:
  • In comparison to other nations, Americans do not vote as much as citizens of other nations, but Americans participate in government in other areas (campaigning, petitioning) more than citizens of other nations. However, compared to other nations, Americans have a strong sense of civic duty(an idea in which every citizen is responsible for participating in civil and political proceedings) and a strong sense civic competence(a notion that one's political or civic actions may affect the government), and a belief that one should be active in one's community.
    • This is partly because in other nations voting is required, not because Americans are disinterested in voting. These countries include Argentina, Australia, and Switzerland.
    • In a 1959-1960 study done by Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, they found that Americans and the British has a stronger sense of civic duty and civic competence than Germany, Italy, or Mexico do. For instance, over half of all Americans and a third of Britons believe that citizens should be active in their community while only a tenth in Italy and a fifth in Germany believe that (Wilson 80).
  • Americans stress the virtues of individualism, competition, and political and social
  • Equality where as the Japanese highly value maintaining good relations with colleagues, making decisions within a group, preserving social harmony, and showing respect for social, political, and economic hierarchy
    • Americans focus more on rules, treating others fairly but impersonally with regard to their rights/ the Japanese care more about being sensitive to peoples' needs, avoiding conflict, and coming to decisions through discussion rather than applying rules
  • Americans prefer that the government make decisions based on what the people want or believe. In contrast to other countries, such as Sweden, they tend to look toward political experts to make decisions based on "what is best" rather than "what the people want". (Wilson)
  • Americans are often more contentious than citizens in other countries, who tend to value harmony and emphasize obligations over rights. However voter turnout is lower in the United States than in other countries. Americans participate in other forms; they campaign, attend political meetings, and contact government officials when necessary in a greater extent than do other countries. Even though many mistrust the government Americans seem to have more confidence in it than other people abroad (Benson).
Political Ideology:
  • Political Ideology: A more or less consistent set of beliefs about politics and public policy; differences in ideology are the result of varying political, economic, and social issue beliefs.
    • Example: A person who consistently supports a strong military and wanted to increase defense spending over the past 20 years.
  • Radical Ideology: Change is wanted in social, economic, or political order; extreme measures may be taken to ensure rapid and fundamental change. Sometimes, extreme change is desired to create a completely new social system.
  • Liberal Ideology: The government should be active in promoting individual welfare and in protecting civil rights. Peaceful political and social change is accepted. Support government efforts to correct social injustices. Support idea of separation of church and state.
  • Moderate Ideology: A viewpoint that is between liberal and conservative; tolerant of other political opinions, extreme views on issues are not held. This view constitutes largest proportion of American public.
  • Conservative Ideology: The government should have a limited role in helping citizens economically; traditional values and lifestyles are supported; the government should be more active in protecting national security. Change should be approached cautiously.
  • Reactionary Ideology: Promotes a return to a social order or government that was previously used some time in history. Extremes may be used to achieve their goal. ( 5 Steps to a 5 )
Basic Differences between Liberals and Conservatives:
  • Liberals: Economy should be regulated by the government. The government should have more responsibilities to the poor. Pro affirmative action. The Purpose of the government is to help the people. (Meltzer) They favor national solutions in Federalist questions, which means that the federal government should be involved in helping solve a crisis like the Great Depression.
  • Examples of liberal actions include; Pro choice, gun regulation, affirmative action, more equality, same-sex marriage, welfare, and Civil rights legislation
  • Conservatives: Government should keep hands off government. The government should have fewer benefits for the poor. There should be no group rights. The purpose of the government is limited. They favor state solutions in Federalist questions. (Meltzer)
  • Conservatives depends on the individual to do good on their own, and they believe that it should spread and help the community and or government.
  • Examples of conservative actions include; pro life, no gun regulation, religion in public schools, laws against gay marriage, smaller government programs, and laws against allowing illegal drugs in public markets.
  • Populists: Liberal on economic issues, socially conservative
  • Examples of populist ideology include: for welfare and restrictive immigration laws, against gay marriage and tax cuts for corporations.
  • Libertarians: Conservative on economic issues, socially liberal
  • Examples of libertarian ideology include: for legalization of marijuana and a proportional tax rate, against TANF and other welfare programs.
  • Liberals: Left-wing because they favor regulation and more services that benefit the population. (ex. health care provided to every person)
  • Conservatives: Right-wing because they favor a smaller government with less regulation and fewer services being offered.
Economic Assumptions:
  • Americans believe in “equality of opportunity” but not “equality of results." Also, they are more tolerate towards economic inequality than political inequality. (Wilson and Dilulio)
  • Also Americans tend to be less class conscious than other European countries (Wilson).America as the "land of opportunity" causes Americans to think that they can improve their economic situation through some means. This is why more Americans state they are a part of the middle class.
  • Americans thoughts have changed on some policies in reaction to appropriate historical events, now they think government should help the less fortunate and help keep business stable (Wilson).
  • According to Wilson, compared to other countries, Americans are more likely to think freedom is more important than equality. Thus, supporting the idea of a free-enterprise economic system.
  • Liberty is also an important factor in the economic system, being able to have range of economic possibilities is what drove people from all over the world to America at one point.
  • Liberal political groups, compared to other Americans, are seen to be more willing to allow preferential treatment to minorities. They believe in the idea that any obstacle the minority encounters is due to the economic system not being in their favor (Wilson, 79). They also believe it is due to the effects of America's history of oppression, which accounts for a systematic system of discrimination today.
Comparing Economic Systems:
  • Compared to people of other nations, Americans are less likely to think that hard work will go without some kind of reward and less likely to believe the government should guarantee citizens a basic standard of living (because of this Sweden has less income inequality than the United States)
  • Swedish leaders believe that if a "menial worker" earned $200 a week, an executive should earn $440-480 a week. In the United States, the executive would earn from $2,250-3,040, ten times the amount of a menial worker, further providing convincing evidence that America values hard work relative to other nations.
  • Within both American and Sweden, political leaders were chosen on a basis of being in a major liberal political party or a union (Wilson, 81).
  • Americans favor "meritocracy," where divided income is preferred over divided classes. Other countries tend to be more socialistic.
  • Europeans favor equality of results more than Americans favor equality of opportunity, such as putting a limit on the highest someone can earn, or giving workers equal pay, regardless of position.
  • Compared to other countries, Americans are far likelier to think the idea of freedom is more important than equality between people.
Civic Role of Religion:
  • In general Americans are more religious than many Europeans. 82% of Americans consider themselves as a "religious person" and 54% have attended worship services more than once a month. Recent studies have found that American has becoming less religious (US News) However, this is doubtful for political elites.
    • Americans are more likely to believe in God, pray on a daily basis, and acknowledge clear standards of right and wrong. (Wilson).
    • Statistics show that Americans that believe "God exists" has risen from 68% in 1987 to 79% in 1997. (Wilson) Also, the percentage of Americans that say" prayer is an important part of my day" rose from 41% to 53% from 1987 to 1997. (Wilson)
  • Many present day Americans are attracted to religion as much for its civic as its spiritual significance. Religious organizations are the country's major source of volunteer and community services. Unpaid community work is prevalent among church members and usually nine out of ten members give money to charity. (Wilson)
  • Across the United states in many urban communities religious organizations are the major provider of numerous social and health services to low income families, youth, and children.
Religion and Politics:
  • Religion is very influential in American Politics. Although there is supposed to be a separation between the church and state, religion has become increasingly influential in the government. Oftentimes, politicians will act according to their religious beliefs and not necessarily the way the law dictates.
    • For Example the First Great Awakening shook America in the late 1730s and early 1740s and changed the political lifes of Americans.(Wilson, 83)
    • Another more recent example, is the Christian Coalition that formed in the 1990s. It supported both Democratic candidate Al Gore and Republican candidate George W. Bush, who both publicly promoted the virtues of religion and fought for religious organizations to receive government funding (on the condition that they provide social services).
  • The American Revolution was partly influenced by religious ideas, with the "nature of God" being mentioned in the Declaration of Independence (Wilson)
  • 19th century-religion was embraced the racial struggles
  • The group Moral Majority, religious and conservative, had attempted passing an amendment that would allow the idea of prayer in public education. This had shown the extent of how religious Americans were and how much of it had dominated their culture (Wilson, 83).
  • 40% of Americans believe faith based organizations can do the best job in providing social services( Wilson)
  • A study in 2000 showed that three quarters of Americans felt funding should be given to houses of worship to provide financial aid for social services (Wilson)
  • Even today, Americans fight for religious rights. In 2002, when a federal appeals court tried to ban the Pledge of Allegiance, Americans from both political-party affiliations banded together to protest against the ban. This event demonstrated the staying-power of religion in our American democratic society.
  • " Both liberals and conservatives have used the pulpit to promote political change"( pg 83 American Government)
  • There exists no official religion for the nation, based on the establishment clause of the First Amendment.
    • There is significant religious diversity, as there is no established religion.
Sources of Political Culture: The American preoccupation with rights and the adversarial spirit of the American political culture is a result of the unfair sentiments the colonists felt under British rule. Americans do not trust authority that wields power, which is a trait that has been supported in our government since its creation. The Founders wished to protect and keep the government away from the factions. They did not want the passions of the people to govern the nation and made it so the government would represent the people instead of giving them the power directly. For this reason, the main challenge in drafting the Constitution was reconciling the ideas of personal liberty and social order.
  • The religious belief of the colonists that all mankind suffered from original sin also led the Founders to not trust anyone with power. The Framers designed the Constitution to control the darker side of human nature.
  • Political parties are one historic source. When John Adams gave up his seat to Thomas Jefferson, it was the first significant peaceful transfer of power.
  • Religious diversity is another aspect of political culture. Protestant traditions such as working hard, saving money, obeying secular law and doing good deeds have transcended throughout the nation and have been past on from generation to generation (for the most part)
  • All aspects of political culture are primarily transmitted through family. Family plays a big role in the way we think about politics and how you affiliate yourself with a political party.
  • Protestantism and Puritanism are dominant in America’s religious tradition
  • The Puritan idea of "work ethic" has transcended American history. It puts emphasis in the individual's obligation to work, save money, do good works. This work ethic helps explain the rise of capitalism in the U.S. (Benson)
  • The type of participatory political culture that exists today had been refined by the strong participatory necessity in maintaining a society closely knit about the church of earlier times.
  • Mass media, the entertainment industry, religion (and its diversity), family's party identification are some elements affecting political culture (Wilson).
  • There is a low degree of class consciousness, the awareness of one's social class or economic standing in society, among Americans due to religious and ethnic diversity, split political authority, and an individualistic philosophy.
  • Class Consciousness: the belief that you are a member of an economic group with interests that are opposed by other people in such groups (Wilson).
    • An example would be the conflict of interests between a worker and management.
    • Americans lack a high degree of class consciousness.
Almost all Americans share some elements of a political culture, but there is still a vast majority of cultural conflict in American politics, dividing the culture war into two camps:
  • Orthodox: People who believe that morality is more important than self-expression. They believe that morals come from the commands of God or the laws of nature, and see the United States as a general force for good in the world.
  • -They hold that these moral rules commanded by God or the laws of nature that are relatively clear, unchanging and independent of individual preferences. The orthodox often includes fundamentalist protestants and evangelical Christians. However some of the people belonging to these groups do not hold very deep religious views. It can also be derived from Jewish and Catholic traditions. Those with orthodox view tend to favor or support two-parent families and condemn homosexuality and pornography.
  • Progressive: People who believe that personal freedom is superior over traditional morals. Progressives believe that morals should be reevaluated as time progresses and that the United States just serves as a neutral force in the world.
  • They believe rules must be evaluated in light of certain circumstances, circumstances that are complex, changeable and dependent on individual preferences.
  • - They include people from liberal Protestant denominations and people with very little if not none religious beliefs. They believe that there are alternatives to the two-parent families, they state that homosexuality and pornography are private matters protected by individual rights and that the United States is neutral when it comes to world affairs (Benson).
The Culture War:
  • Began to surface in America during the 1920s, when American values began to clash between those that lived in rural areas, and those that lived in urban areas.
  • There are two sides: the orthodox and the progressive.
    • The orthodox perspective is a more conservative view of topics.
    • The progressive perspective is a more liberal view of topics.
  • An individual's world view is a determinant for which side of the Culture War he will be on.One's world-view is influenced by standings such as whether he is educated or uneducated, wealthy or poor, religious or non-religious, or liberal or conservative. Even race can be a factor in the perspective of different individuals.
  • According to Wilson and Dilulio, the orthodox side tend to be the people that "believe that morality is as important, or more important than self-expression." The rules the orthodox live by come from "the commands of God and the laws of nature." (pg. 86 American Government ). Fundamentalist Protestants and evangelical Christians make up the orthodox camp. The orthodox have strong conservative views about drugs, pornography, and sexual orientation (Wilson).
  • Values and opinions on topics such as the theory of evolution, the age of the universe, and women's rights all play a part in shaping one's world view and define what the Culture War consists of and how different views turn individuals against each other.
    • "The progressive side often includes members of liberal Protestant denominations"(Wilson 87).
    • The progressive side also includes " people with no strong religious beliefs" ( Wilson 87).
      • This sometimes leads critics of the progressives to label them as “immoral, anti-Christian radicals”(Wilson)
  • The culture war comes from deep differences in people's beliefs about private and public morality--the standards that govern individual behavior and social arrangements. (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • Rise of media has made the cultural war grow to a massive scale
    • ie before there may have been only a few activists, but because talk shows, news programs, authors or websites can reach millions of people today, they are able to recruit hundreds of thousands of followers (Wilson 87)
  • The culture war is different from other political disputes in many ways:
    • Money is not "at stake," and thus not a factor.
    • It is nearly impossible for the two sides to reach a compromise.
    • The conflict is more meaningful and profound than average political squabbles. (Wilson)
    • Values and beliefs are the main reason for the fighting between the two groups.
  • Politically speaking, the Culture War is between red and blue states. Most presidents use lines of color to determine which states to fight for and which states are essentially given, because of political association (I.E. California has had a history of being majority Democrats, or blue).
Political Efficacy:
  • Defined by Wilson and DiIulio as "a citizen's capacity to understand and influence political events" (89).
  • There has been a decline in American citizen's feeling as though the political system will respond to their needs and beliefs.
  • Political efficacy is often measured through the use of surveys and is used as an indicator of the health of civil society in terms of how we feel towards government.
  • There is a strong connection between efficacy and participation and interest in political events.
  • Protest and demonstrations as a way to try to influence policy are a common feature of American politics.
    • Internal efficacy according to Wilson and Dilulio is the "ability to understand and take part in political affairs." There hasn't been much of change in internal efficacy among Americans since the 1960s. (pg. 90 American Government )
    • External efficacy is the belief that the political system in place will respond to its citizens. There has been a fairly sharp drop in external efficiency since the mid- 1960s.
      • The sense of external efficacy dropped throughout 1960s and 1970s. The drop of external efficacy or feelings of an unresponsive government has not been because of one certain event.(Wilson)
      • While external efficacy has dropped, internal efficacy within America has stayed constant throughout history. Overall, American efficacy has been higher than Europeans because Americans are more likely to become more involved with the government (internal efficacy), except with voting.
      • During national crisis (e.g. 9/11 attacks) people tend to have confidence in American Government. For e.g. Between 2000 and 2002, the American people had more confidence in their government(believed that the government is responsive to their needs), but soon after 2002 the the confidence level began to drop again.(Wilson)
  • According to Wilson & Dilulio, Americans may feel less effective as citizens as before, but their sense of efficacy still remains higher than those among Europeans.
  • There has been an increase in feeling that the government is unresponsive and too big and persuasive to be sensitive to citizen preferences.
  • Americans are less likely to regard their political leaders in high esteem as they once did, or to have confidence in government policies, some say Americans today are more "alienated" from politics. (pg 91 American Government)
  • Political efficacy and participation in government usually increases with age.
Mistrust of Government:
  • Since the 1950's there has been a continual decline in the level of trust towards the government by the American people.
  • The decline in political efficacy can be linked to the fact that mistrust in the government has increased due to events such as:
    • Watergate Scandal: During the Nixon administration, the Watergate scandal broke out and Nixon was accused of a major attempt to cover up the issue, this led to the resignation of Nixon and mistrust of government to increase
    • Vietnam War: The Vietnam War ended up having minuscule support by Americans and after months of begging for troops to come back home, the government finally listened, however, trust in government was significantly affected when the numbers of the war became public
    • Bill Clinton Scandal: Bill Clinton's alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky strongly affected the way Americans viewed the President
    • Mistrust of government increased during the Reagan administration due to unpopular policy making decisions by the administration such as the Iran-Contra Scandal among others
  • Another view is that Americans in the 1950s trusted the government too much. This unusually high level of confidence in the government could have been brought on by our victory in the war against fascism, the end of the Great Depression of the 1930s, sole possession of the atomic bomb, a booming economy, or domination over international trade.
  • Usually the opinion of Congress, churches, newspapers, and Supreme Court doesn't change much (Wilson). Showing a constant level of support between them. While churches and the Supreme Court have had a relatively large amount of support, newspapers and Congress have had a relatively small amount.
  • The military and view on the presidency changes a great deal and can fluctuate up and down depending on the current state. If the president is doing a good job or a bad one and if the war is going well or if the war is opposed by the people. People usually think about how well the president is doing with regards to the economy, if the economy is suffering them attitude would be more negative.
  • People don't believe in political leaders and policies as they used to, but they have not lost their confidence in the political system overall (Wilson).
  • People still believe in the military with relative consistency regardless (more or less) of the governments frame of mind, action/standpoint.
  • The domestic turmoil, urban riots, economic inflation, environmental concerns, and much more of the 1960s and 1970s overturned that sense of blind trust in the government.
  • However, when 9/11 happened, there was an increase in the support of the government, and the public trusted Washington officials to do what is right (Wilson).
    • In October 2001, only one month after 9/11, 57% of Americans trusted the government to do what it believed was right, but the support slightly declined to 40% in May 2002 (Wilson).
  • The terrorist attacks of 9/11 created a wave of patriotism not seen for many decades and recent polls show a decline of confidence toward the government that is probably due to the war in Iraq.
Political Tolerance:
  • Americans have become more tolerant of others who have opposing views overall compared to in the past.
  • In the abstract, Americans agree with the concept of freedom of speech, majority rule, and the right to circulate petitions, but looking at actual cases a large amount of Americans are not very tolerant of groups they dislike.
  • Most citizens worry that the nation is becoming too tolerant of behavior that harms society, and they favor defending common moral standards over protecting individual rights (an orthodox view as opposed to a progressive view).
  • Most of Americans' hostility isn't expressed towards the rights that are being protected but rather the groups that are taking advantage of them.
  • Americans must respect what others are trying to express because what is their civic intolerance may be another person's Civic duty.
  • According to Wilson & Dilulio, groups or rights that are widely unpopular are able to last due to most people not acting on their beliefs.
  • Americans are currently "more willing to tolerate Communists, people who teach against churches and religions, advocates of government ownership of industries, and people who think that blacks are genetically inferior," than in previous decades. ( pg 91 American Government )
  • In 1998, 66% Americans were more worried that the country will become too tolerant of behaviors that are bad for society, while 28% believed the country was too intolerant, and the 6% having no opinion. (Figure 4.5 pg. 93, Wilson)
  • Looking at Figure 4.4 from the American Government book, we observe that public tolerance, from 1954-1998, has tended to increased, even when the idea may be unpopular to some of the public (i.e. an admitted Communist teaching in college or an atheist's book being in a library).
  • People do act in opposite ways of their beliefs which accounted for the discrimination of African Americans (Americans believing in equality), but if the people become aware of their behavior and how it does not correlate with their values, change and tolerance is more likely to occur.
  • Democracy does not require perfect or unconditional tolerance of all dissenting opinions, and the government does not attempt to enforce a "zero tolerance" policy against intolerance. However, at the very least, in order for democracy to function, there must exist a political culture that allows the discussion of ideas and the selection of rulers without fear of oppression.
  • Most causes will be tolerated by most people, though unpopular they may be. However, we cannot forget that there are groups or causes from which the majority of Americans would be willing to withhold political liberties. In the past, homosexuals, Atheists, and the Japanese have been among these groups.
How Very Unpopular Groups Survive:
  • most people do not act on their beliefs
  • officeholders and activists are more tolerant than the general public
  • usually there is no consensus on whom to persecute
  • these groups also have very strong beliefs
  • the first amendment protects many of these groups