The Culture War and Issue Salience

An Analysis of American Sentiment on Traditional Moral Issues

Andrew Wroe, Edward Ashbee, Amanda Gosling

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of American Studies
    Volume48
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)595-612
    ISSN0021-8758
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

    Cite this

    @article{7007bf7bcbf941c18efaaf2763f704f0,
    title = "The Culture War and Issue Salience: An Analysis of American Sentiment on Traditional Moral Issues",
    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.",
    author = "Andrew Wroe and Edward Ashbee and Amanda Gosling",
    year = "2014",
    doi = "10.1017/S0021875813001989",
    language = "English",
    volume = "48",
    pages = "595--612",
    journal = "Journal of American Studies",
    issn = "0021-8758",
    publisher = "Cambridge University Press",
    number = "2",

    }

    The Culture War and Issue Salience : An Analysis of American Sentiment on Traditional Moral Issues . / Wroe, Andrew; Ashbee, Edward; Gosling, Amanda.

    In: Journal of American Studies, Vol. 48, No. 2, 2014, p. 595-612.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - The Culture War and Issue Salience

    T2 - An Analysis of American Sentiment on Traditional Moral Issues

    AU - Wroe, Andrew

    AU - Ashbee, Edward

    AU - Gosling, Amanda

    PY - 2014

    Y1 - 2014

    N2 - 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.

    AB - 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.

    U2 - 10.1017/S0021875813001989

    DO - 10.1017/S0021875813001989

    M3 - Journal article

    VL - 48

    SP - 595

    EP - 612

    JO - Journal of American Studies

    JF - Journal of American Studies

    SN - 0021-8758

    IS - 2

    ER -