Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

The Culture War and Issue Salience: An Analysis of American Sentiment on Traditional Moral Issues

  • ANDREW WROE (a1), EDWARD ASHBEE (a2) and AMANDA GOSLING (a3)
Abstract

Despite much talk of a culture war, scholars continue to argue over whether the American public is divided on cultural and social issues. Some of the most prominent work in this area, such as Fiorina's Culture War?, has rejected the idea. However, this work has in turn been criticized for focussing only on the distribution of attitudes within the American public and ignoring the possibility that the culture war may also be driven by the increasing strength with which sections of the population hold their opinions. This paper tests the strength, or saliency, hypothesis using individual-level over-time data and nonlinear regression. It finds (1) that there was a steady and significant increase in concern about traditional moral issues between the early 1980s and 2000, but (2) that the over-time increase was driven by an upward and equal shift in the importance attached to traditional moral issues by Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, evangelicals and non-evangelicals, and frequent and infrequent worshippers alike. While the first finding offers support for the saliency hypothesis and the culture war thesis, the second challenges the idea that Americans are engaged in a war over culture. Both findings enhance but also complicate our theoretical understanding of the culture war, and have important real-world consequences for American politics.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Email: a.j.wroe@kent.ac.uk.
Email: ea.dbp@cbs.dk.
Email: a.gosling@kent.ac.uk.
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Geoffrey C. Layman , Thomas M. Carsey and Juliana Menasce Horowitz , “Party Polarization in American Politics: Characteristics, Causes, and Consequences,” Annual Review of Political Science, 9 (2006), 83110

Alan Abramowitz and Kyle L. Saunders , “Is Polarization a Myth?”, Journal of Politics, 70 (2008), 542–55

Paul DiMaggio , John Evans and Bethany Bryson , “Have Americans' Social Attitudes Become More Polarized?”, American Journal of Sociology, 102 (1996), 690755

John H. Evans , “Have Americans' Attitudes Become More Polarized? An Update,” Social Science Quarterly, 84 (2003), 7190

Morris P. Fiorina and Samuel J. Abrams , “Political Polarization in the American Public,” Annual Review of Political Science, 11 (2008), 563–88

Henry Cantril , “The Intensity of an Attitude,” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41 (1946), 129–35

Young Min , Salma I. Ghanem and Dixie Evatt , “Using a Split-Ballot Survey to Explore the Robustness of the ‘MIP’ Question in Agenda-Setting Research: A Methodological Study,” International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 19 (2007), 221–36

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 3
Total number of PDF views: 29 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 138 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd August 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.