« civic education: the case for smaller schools | Main | the computer as a metaphor for the brain »

March 1, 2005

tolerance & generational change

Yesterday, CIRCLE released a detailed report (pdf) on the evolution of young people's attitudes toward racial minorities, immigrants, and gays. The report finds substantial increases in tolerance, although not much increase in actual interactions among racial groups. My favorite graph is the one on the right. It's a perfect illustration of Karl Mannheim's theory of generations, which holds that our political values are permanently shaped by our experiences as young adults. Why have Americans become increasingly favorable toward interracial marriage since the 1960s? Not because many individuals have changed their minds over their lifetimes, but because each generation has come of age in a more tolerant era and remained at a consistent level of support. The underlying theory is that we are forced to make up our minds about major questions when we first encounter them. Thereafter, changing one's opinion takes a lot of effort, so we rarely do so. Those who first considered the issue of interracial marriage in 1930 are permanently different from those who first heard of it in 1980. (Incidentally, this pattern is good news, because it suggests that tolerance will rise inexorably as today's young people predominate in the population.)

March 1, 2005 10:22 AM | category: none


I like what's happened oldsters from 1998 on -- they seem to have reacted to the rightwing blather about gay marriage and have become much more tolerant. Look also at the dramatic drop also in the pre-1926 group between Bush's rise to power and two years into his administration. Looks as though the right may have cooked its own goose. Good.

March 1, 2005 8:25 PM | Comments (1) | posted by PW

Site Meter