This article proposes an alternative conceptualization of political tolerance, a new measurement strategy consistent with that conceptualization, and some new findings based upon this measurement strategy. Briefly put, we argue that tolerance presumes a political objection to a group or to an idea, and if such an objection does not arise, neither does the problem of tolerance. Working from this understanding, we argue that previous efforts to measure tolerance have failed because they have asked respondents about groups preselected by the investigators. Those groups selected as points of reference in measuring tolerance have generally been of a leftist persuasion. Our measurement strategy allowed respondents themselves to select a political group to which they were strongly opposed. They were then asked a series of questions testing the extent to which they were prepared to extend procedural claims to these self-selected targets. Using this approach, we found little change between the 1950s and the 1970s in levels of tolerance in the United States, a result that contradicts much recent research on the problem.
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