International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Bringing Culture Back In: Social Group Polarization and the “Culture Wars” in the U.S.
Christopher P. Muste

Ongoing debates about political polarization in the United States have focused on analyzing putative “culture wars” at the elite and mass levels. Despite the terminology, the debate has not addressed cultural groups’ attitudes toward each other, and instead defines polarization in terms of either values and worldviews or parties and voting. These foci have diverted attention from assessing group divisiveness in the U.S. based on social group attachments and evaluations. This paper addresses the question of whether there has been an increase in divisions among social groups over time in the U.S. by analyzing trends in a fundamental psychological affiliation toward groups, people’s sense of favorability toward their in-groups and animosity toward out-groups. Using trend data from 1964-2008, I find little evidence of high or widening polarization on the cleavages of race, class, age, gender, or religion, and generally favorable attitudes toward both in-groups and out-groups.

Full Text: PDF