Public opinion in the United States contains a paradox. The American public is symbolically conservative: it cherishes the symbols of conservatism and is more likely to identify as conservative than as liberal. Yet at the same time, it is operationally liberal, wanting government to do and spend more to solve a variety of social problems. This book focuses on understanding this contradiction. It argues that both facets of public opinion are real and lasting, not artifacts of the survey context or isolated to particular points in time. By exploring the ideological attitudes of the American public as a whole, and the seemingly conflicted choices of individual citizens, it explains the foundations of this paradox. The keys to understanding this large-scale contradiction, and to thinking about its consequences, are found in Americans' attitudes with respect to religion and culture and in the frames in which elite actors describe policy issues.
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This book explains why the American public thinks of itself as conservative, but supports liberal positions on specific policy matters. Much scholarly work and popular commentary discusses the ideology of the American public: whether the public should be thought of as liberal or conservative, and why. This book is the first to focus squarely on the contradiction in public attitudes. By doing so, it can provide a broader explanation of American political ideology, and how American citizens connect their own beliefs and values to the choices presented by policy makers.About the Author:
Christopher Ellis is assistant professor of Political Science at Bucknell University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and previously taught at North Carolina State University. His work has been published in the Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, Political Science and Politics, Electoral Studies and the Journal of Public Opinion and Parties.
James A. Stimson earned his B.A. from the University of Minnesota and his Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina. Stimson is former President of the Midwest Political Science Association and Treasurer of the American Political Science Association. He has authored or co-authored six books: Yeas and Nays (with Donald R. Matthews), Issue Evolution (with Edward G. Carmines), Public Opinion in America, The Macro Polity (with Robert S. Erikson and Michael B. MacKuen), Tides of Consent and Mandate Politics (with Larry Grossback and David A. M. Peterson). A Fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he has won the Heinz Eulau and Gladys Kammerer Awards of the American Political Science Association. He is founding editor of Political Analysis and has authored articles in all the major journals of political science.
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