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Wars and Rumours of Wars: The Contexts of Cultural Conflict in American Political Behaviour

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 December 2005

Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, The University of Akron


A heated scholarly debate rages over the ‘culture wars thesis’ in American politics. Drawing on the literature on mass opinion constraint and its sources, we propose a resolution to this debate: the culture wars influence mass political behaviour in special religious, policy and political contexts where logical, psychological, social and electoral sources of opinion constraint are in effect. Using data pooled from the 1992, 1996 and 2000 American National Election Studies, we find strong support for our argument. We conclude that the cultural wars are waged by limited religious troops on narrow policy fronts under special political leadership, and a broader cultural conflagration is largely a rumour.

Research Article
© 2005 Cambridge University Press

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