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Social Trends in American LifeFindings from the General Social Survey since 1972$
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Peter V. Marsden

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691133317

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691133317.001.0001

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On the Seemingly Relentless Progress in Americans’

On the Seemingly Relentless Progress in Americans’

Support for Free Expression, 1972–2006

Chapter:
(p.19) 2 On the Seemingly Relentless Progress in Americans’
Source:
Social Trends in American Life
Author(s):

James A. Davis

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691133317.003.0002

This chapter extends existing research on tolerance for nonconformity into the 2000s, following up on one of the very first articles based on the General Social Survey. Drawing on Stouffer's (1955) conceptualization, it defines tolerance as the willingness to accord First Amendment-guaranteed rights of free expression to groups espousing unpopular views (e.g., atheists or racists) or lifestyles (homosexuals). Anchored on Stouffer's McCarthy-era baseline reading, it documents a steady rise in tolerance into the 2000s, but suggests that this may be decelerating. The chapter concludes that generally liberal outlooks, not sentiments toward particular “target” groups, underlie rising tolerance. The growth in tolerance can be attributed to the replacement of older, less-educated cohorts by more recent ones. But because the two principal drivers of higher tolerance—education and generally liberal outlooks—have stopped rising, tolerance may soon reach a plateau.

Keywords:   tolerance, social attitudes, nonconformity, free expression, First Amendment, education, liberals

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