Principled Tolerance and The American Mass Public

Paul M. Sniderman, Philip E. Tetlock, James M. Glaser, Donald Philip Green, Michael Hout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Americans appear to be more tolerant of deviant opinions and life-styles now than they were a generation ago. Recent research by Sullivan and his colleagues suggests, however, that this apparent change is largely illusory — a product not of an increase in principled support for tolerance, but rather of shifts in public dislike for, and hence intolerance of, particular political groups. An alternative account of tolerance is proposed which shows that citizen attitudes on issues of tolerance are remarkably consistent — far more so than has been commonly appreciated. In particular, the empirical analysis distinguishes two kinds of consistency − ‘principled’ and ‘situational’. Using log-linear techniques, it demonstrates that substantial numbers of the general public now support a variety of forms of tolerance consistently; and do so, not for reasons peculiar to each, but rather on principle. The broader implications of the results for the study of public opinion and democratic theory are noted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-45
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations


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