Chapter 1 The Study of American Government

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Transcript Chapter 1 The Study of American Government

Chapter 4
Political Culture
Political culture is a patterned and
sustained way of thinking about how
political and economic life ought to
be carried out.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote
Democracy in America, a
profound analysis of our
political culture, p. 78.
The Granger Collection
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Political Culture
Alexis de Tocqueville identified factors which
made democracy successful in America:
• Abundant and fertile land
• Countless opportunities for people to acquire land
and make a living.
• Lack of a feudal aristocracy that blocks the
ambitions of others.
• An independent spirit encouraged
by frontier living.
Political Culture
The government of the U.S. is supported by a
political culture which:
• fosters a sense of civic duty
• takes pride in the nation’s constitutional
• provides support for the exercise of essential
civil liberties (ex. - freedom of expression).
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Political Culture: Basic common beliefs
AMERICANISM: The belief that Americans consider
themselves bound by common values and common
1. Liberty
Americans cherish freedom and rights
Core value of the American Revolution.
“…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”
2. Equality
• “…all men are created equal…”
• Equal treatment under the law.
• Equality of opportunity
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Political Culture: Basic common beliefs
3. Individualism
Importance and dignity of the individual.
Individuals have rights and responsibilities
“Rugged individualism”
 Individuals are responsible for their own wellbeing
 Individuals should be left alone to compete for
 Ordinary people have the “common sense” to
take care of themselves and choose government
4. Democracy
• Government should be based on consent of the governed
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• Majority rule with protection
of individual rights.
Political Culture: Basic common beliefs
5. Rule of Law
Government is based on laws which should apply
equally, impartially and justly.
Opposite of rule by an individual (following the whims
of a dictator).
6. Civic Duty
• Sense of responsibility to community.
• Most Americans help out when they can.
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Political Culture: Basic common beliefs
Belief that the free-enterprise system is generally fair
and efficient.
Belief that if everyone has the opportunity to get
ahead, then higher earnings for harder workers is fair.
There is a moral connection between effort and
Do not support wealth redistribution to correct
economic inequality.
Strong opposition to affirmative action (preferential
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treatment to correct
Political Culture: Characteristics
1.A preoccupation with the maintenance of
Stems from the Revolution (liberty) and founding
2. The absence of an official religion
• Encourages religious and political pluralism
3.The dominance of Protestantism
• promotes individualism and personal responsibility
a life of personal achievement.
an obligation to work and save money.
obedience to secular law.
performance of good Copyright
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Political Culture: Characteristics
4. Child-rearing practices that treat children
as valuable members of the family
• Children given freedom and taught equality
• Leads to respect for rights, acceptance of diverse
5. Deep divisions over morality-based policy
• Fundamentalist Christians (orthodox) believe in an
unchanging standard of right and wrong.
• Progressive Christians and secular Americans adhere to
an individualistic understanding of morality.
abortion, sexual morality, gay rights, pornography, drug use
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Political Culture: Patriotism
Pew Research Center, June, 2010
83% of Americans say they are “extremely
proud” or “very proud” to be an American.
Comparing Political Cultures
• The U.S. has a unique political culture in
comparison to other nations.
• PATRIOTISM: 83% of Americans are patriotic
compared to 21% of Germans.
• INDIVIDUALISM: Majority of Europeans
believe economic success is determined by
forces beyond their control. Americans have
strong belief in individualism.
little compared to Europeans. Most Americans
consider themselves to be “middle class.”
Comparing Political Cultures
• MORALITY: Americans have a deeper belief in
religious morality than Europeans.
• Americans are more religious, more likely to
believe in absolute standards of right and
• Religious themes are important in political
Comparing Political Cultures
Economic Beliefs
• Americans favor economic freedom over
• Swedes tend to favor equal pay and a top
limit on incomes.
• Americans are less likely to think that
government should guarantee citizens a basic
standard of living.
Political Culture: Changing Values
Individualism and
freedom in a time of
abundant, cheap
Accumulation of
wealth results from
individual effort.
Free-enterprise and capitalism complimented
values of value of individualism.
Political Culture: Changing Values
Late 1900s
Industrial economy:
exploitation of
workers, monopolies,
robber barons.
• Is the new economic
arrangement “fair?”
• What should the
government do to correct
Old values of
individualism and
freedom come in
conflict with equality.
How much of the time do you
think you can trust the
government in Washington to do
what is right?
Just about always
Most of the time
Some of the time
None of the time
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Mistrust in Government
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Mistrust in Government
In recent years, people’s mistrust in
government officials has increased and
confidence in officials’ responsiveness
to the popular will has declined.
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Figure 4.2 Trust in the Federal
Government, 1958-2004
Source: University of Michigan, The American National
Election Studies.
p. 90
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Gallup: Trust in the Federal
Government, 1992 – 2010
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Mistrust of Government
Our trust in our system of
government has not
52% say members are the
problem, the system works
38% say members have
good intentions, the system
is broken.
Pew Research, 2011
Source: Gallup Poll
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Mistrust of Government
• Def - A citizen’s capacity to understand and
influence political events.
• High political efficacy means a person
believes “my vote counts” and that “my
government listens to me.”
• A decline in political efficacy has paralleled
the decline in trust of government.
• Big drop during the 1960s and 70s.
Mistrust of Government
Civil society is that collection of
private, voluntary groups that –
independent of the government and the
commercial market – make human
cooperation easier and provide ways of
holding the government accountable for
its actions.
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Mistrust of Government
• Reasons for decline in trust: Wilson,
pp. 89-90. Read carefully.
• Of what use is this
For elected officials and
other politicians?
For citizens?
For political scientists?
Political Tolerance
In what ways does
democracy depend on
political tolerance?
• Free discussion of ideas.
• Ability to choose leaders without fear of
• Protection of minority rights.
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Political Tolerance
Levels of American political tolerance
Most Americans agree in the abstract with
freedom of speech, majority rule, and right to
circulate petitions.
• Studies indicate that most Americans would
deny these rights in concrete cases.
o Liberals dislike neo-Nazis and militia groups.
o Conservatives dislike gays, atheists and communists.
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Political Tolerance
Levels of American political tolerance
Research does not show
that liberals are more
tolerant than
conservatives although
that is the popular
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Political Tolerance
Levels of American political tolerance
• Most Americans believe that the nation is too
tolerant of harmful behaviors; defense of
common moral standards is more important
than protection of individual rights.
• Still, most are willing to allow expression by
those with whom they disagree.
• Americans have become more tolerant in
recent decades.
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Political Tolerance
How do unpopular groups survive?
• Most people do not act on their beliefs.
• Officeholders and activists are more tolerant than
general public.
• Usually no consensus exists on whom to persecute.
• Courts are sufficiently insulated from public opinion
to enforce constitutional protections.
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Political Culture: Persistence of Conflict
• Americans share many basic values.
• Why, then, is there so much conflict in our political
• There are fundamental differences based on moral
• The most explosive issues in America are moralitybased: abortion, school prayer, gay rights,
pornography, drug use.
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Political Culture: Persistence of Conflict
• Belief in depravity of mankind means those
in power are a threat to people’s rights.
• The Constitution was designed to curb the
darker side of human nature. (“If men were
angels, no government would be necessary.”)
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Society so
that democracy
is impossible.
The Culture War
Cultural clashes in America -- A battle over values.
Two cultural “camps” defined by James Davison Hunter:
Orthodox camp
(1) Usually consists of fundamentalist Protestants
and evangelical Christians
(2) Believes that moral values are derived from
the commands of God or the laws of nature
(3) Perceives morality as clear, unchanging, and
independent of personal preferences
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The Culture War
Cultural clashes in America -- A battle over values.
Two cultural “camps” defined by James Davison Hunter:
Progressive camp
(1) Usually consists of liberal Protestants and
people with no strong religious beliefs
(2) Believes that personal freedom is as important
as, or more important than, traditional moral rules
(3) Perceives moral rules as complex, changeable,
and dependent on individual preferences
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The Culture War
Divisions are rooted in religious
beliefs, but...
... conflict is over policy, not theology.
Culture war differs from political disputes in
three ways:
a) Money is not at stake.
b) Compromises are almost impossible.
c) Conflict is more profound.
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The Culture War
Two views on importance of culture war to
a) Morris Fiorina: Culture war is a “myth.”
• Political leaders are polarized and media
highlights this.
• Most Americans occupy a middle position on
policy issues.
b) Alan Abramowitz: Culture war is real.
• People more likely to choose party affiliations
based on moral issues.
• Growing percentage of Americans are politically
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