chapter  1
10 Pages


WithJames R. Kluegel, Eliot R. Smith

A comprehensive description of what Americans believe, based on national survey, and of recent changes in beliefs may help explain some apparent inconsistencies and contradictions. This chapter provides a comprehensive description of Americans' beliefs and attitudes about inequality, including evidence concerning stability and change in such beliefs. The need to assess the impact of the events, many of which are unprecedented in American history, underlines the value of a current portrayal of public views. Another possibility is that younger people may adhere to substantially more liberal beliefs and attitudes than older ones. The perspective is rooted in general social-psychological principles of belief and attitude formation and change. The theory emphasizes widespread public ambivalence and inconsistency in views on inequality, which may be partially responsible for the marked changes over time in the electoral fortunes of liberal and conservative candidates. The chapter also presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book.