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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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Public Opinion in the “Age of Reagan”

Public Opinion in the “Age of Reagan”

Political Trends 1972–2006

(p.117) 5 Public Opinion in the “Age of Reagan”
Social Trends in American Life

Jeff Manza

Jennifer A. Heerwig

Brian J. McCabe

Princeton University Press

This chapter asks whether conservatism in political affiliations, national spending priorities, and social issue stances grew between 1972 and 2006. Some trends certainly accord with this image: Discernably more adults described themselves as “conservative” and identified as Republicans. Moreover, conservatives became much more apt to identify as Republicans, and gaps between Republicans and Democrats on some social issues widened, signaling limited rises in some forms of polarization. Other findings, however, are at odds with claims of a rising conservative tide. For example, in most years more adults described themselves as “moderate” than as either liberal or conservative. Public opinion favored spending increases rather than reductions in many domestic arenas, though Americans were reticent to call for greater government intervention. The overall portrait of political attitude trends observed is decidedly qualified and mixed.

Keywords:   conservatism, national spending, social attitudes, Republicans, conservatives, moderates, political attitude

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