Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Political tolerance (the willingness to extend civil liberties to disliked groups) has been disturbingly low among the American public since measurement of tolerance began in the 1950's. The few voters who do exhibit tolerant attitudes tend to be people who know a great deal about politics (i.e. people high in "political expertise"). Researchers have theorized many explanations for why political experts are more tolerant on average; for example, experts may place more value on the legal and normative `rules' of democracy (i.e. "democratic norms"), which guarantee free speech, or they may consider democratic norms to be more important than non-experts do, or some other related mechanism may drive the effect. While many explanations for this link between expertise and tolerance have been suggested, none have been directly tested in empirical research.

The present dissertation represents the first set of studies examining how political expertise promotes political tolerance. Three studies will examine possible mechanisms: study one will examine the role of explicit support for democratic norms and perceived importance of such norms; study two will examine the accessibility of democratic values; and study three will examine implicit support for democratic values. Interactions between these predictors will also be tested a priori (for example, not only will explicit support and importance of democratic norms be examined individually,

the interaction of the two will also be analyzed as a mechanism). These studies will inform future theory and experimental research on the causes of (and contributors to) tolerance, and will inform policy recommendations on how to increase tolerance in a generally intolerant public.

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Creative Commons License
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