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

Wroe, Andrew, Ashbee, Edward, Gosling, Amanda (2014) The Culture War and Issue Salience: An Analysis of American Sentiment on Traditional Moral Issues. Journal of American Studies, 48 (2). pp. 595-612. ISSN 0021-8758. E-ISSN 1469-5154. (doi:10.1017/S0021875813001989) (KAR id:38641)


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.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0021875813001989
Subjects: E History America
E History America > E151 United States (General)
F History United States, Canada, Latin America
H Social Sciences
J Political Science
J Political Science > JK Political institutions and public administration (United States)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Andrew Wroe
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 12:01 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 11:07 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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