Tolerant (In)civility? A Longitudinal Analysis of White Conservative Protestants’ Willingness to Grant Civil Liberties



Past research has found conservative Protestants to be less willing than most Americans to grant civil liberties to unpopular groups. In light of evidence of high and growing civility by Smith (2000) and Hunter (1984), there is good reason to believe that conservative Protestants are becoming less distinctive with regard to granting civil freedoms. We update and expand previous research on conservative Protestants and civil liberties by examining the civil liberties measures in the General Social Survey over a 26-year period, with special attention to explaining conservative Protestantism’s rejection of civil liberties. In comparison to mainline Protestants and Catholics, we find that conservative Protestants are still less willing to grant civil liberties to unpopular groups, though important qualifications apply. Various explanations are examined.