British Journal of Political Science

Wars and Rumours of Wars: The Contexts of Cultural Conflict in American Political Behaviour

a1 Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland
a2 Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, The University of Akron

Article author query
layman gc   [Google Scholar] 
green jc   [Google Scholar] 


A heated scholarly debate rages over the ‘culture wars thesis’ in American politics. Drawing on the literature on mass opinion constraint and its sources, we propose a resolution to this debate: the culture wars influence mass political behaviour in special religious, policy and political contexts where logical, psychological, social and electoral sources of opinion constraint are in effect. Using data pooled from the 1992, 1996 and 2000 American National Election Studies, we find strong support for our argument. We conclude that the cultural wars are waged by limited religious troops on narrow policy fronts under special political leadership, and a broader cultural conflagration is largely a rumour.


a The authors wish to thank Tom Carsey, John Geer, Bud Kellstedt, Bruce Oppenheimer and the participants in the American Politics Workshop at the University of Maryland for helpful comments and suggestions. Any mistakes that remain are, of course, the sole responsibility of the authors. The data used in this study were obtained from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. The Consortium bears no responsibility for their use.