Public support for civil liberties has undergone important changes in the past 50 years, as has scholarship on this topic. Whereas the American public was very intolerant of communists, socialists, and atheists in the 1950s and 1960s, current intolerance is now focused more on Muslim Americans and right-wing racists, among other groups. What has remained consistent is the important role played in shaping citizens’ tolerant and intolerant attitudes by their individual characteristics, such as education, authoritarianism, dogmatism, religiosity, and race. Although threat perceptions have always played an important role in explaining citizens’ support for civil liberties, this variable has gained new meaning in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Meanwhile, improved survey methodology now allows us to understand better the extent of democratic tolerance among Americans. In this article, we review the state of the literature on public support for civil liberties prior to 9/11 and, because we believe the terrorist attacks dramatically changed the political context, after 9/11.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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