The Realignment of Political Tolerance in the United States

57 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2021

See all articles by Dennis Chong

Dennis Chong

University of Southern California

Jack Citrin

University of California, Berkeley

Morris Levy

University of Southern California - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 27, 2021

Abstract

Studies conducted between the 1950s and 1970s found the principles embodied in the First Amendment constituted a “clear norm” endorsed by large majorities of community leaders and virtually all legal practitioners and scholars. This consensus has since weakened under the strain of arguments that racist slurs, epithets, and other expression that demeans social identities are an intolerable affront to egalitarian values. Guided by the theory that norms are transmitted through social learning, we show that these developments have spurred a dramatic realignment in public tolerance of offensive expression about race, gender, and religion. Tolerance has declined overall, and its traditional relationships with ideology, education, and age have diminished or reversed. Speech subject to changing norms of tolerance ranges from polemic to scientific inquiry, the fringes to the mainstream of political discourse, and left to right, raising profound questions about the scope of permissible debate in contemporary American politics.

Keywords: tolerance, free speech, freedom of expression, First Amendment, public opinion, American politics

JEL Classification: Z18

Suggested Citation

Chong, Dennis and Citrin, Jack and Levy, Morris, The Realignment of Political Tolerance in the United States (October 27, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3951377 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3951377

Dennis Chong

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Jack Citrin

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

310 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Morris Levy (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Department of Political Science ( email )

CA 90089
United States

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