Title

The Growing Divisiveness: Culture Wars or a War of Words?

Keywords

conservatism, liberalism, morality, political attitudes, cognition, social perception, cultural groups, Christian morality, behavior modeling

Abstract

This study seeks to resolve a paradox. While a substantial amount of scholarly research and media discourse suggests a growing divisiveness among Americans on a variety of social and moral issues, empirical studies show that attitudinal differences among various groups on these issues have remained fairly stable over the past 25 years. Basing our study largely on social categorization theory and recent work on culture, structure, and cognition, we propose that several key historical events during the 1970s and 1980s increased the salience of many social and moral issues while concomitantly redefining the terms conservative and liberal. These events led members of orthodox religious denominations to increasingly categorize themselves as conservative and members of progressive religious denominations to categorize themselves as liberal despite a lack of attitudinal changes. They further developed a more negative opinion of out-group members. Data from the GSS provide qualified support for this perspective. Implications of this study are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Miller, Alan S., and John P. Hoffmann. 1999. “The Growing Divisiveness: Culture Wars or a War of Words?” Social Forces 78(2): 721-745.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date

1999-12

Publisher

Social Forces

Language

English

College

Family, Home, and Social Sciences

Department

Sociology

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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