The Dynamics of Public Opinion on Cultural Policy
Issues in the U.S., 1972–2010
Published online: 12 August 2012
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
Abstract This study investigates the dynamics of public opinion on cultural
policy issues over the past four decades. We ﬁnd collective opinions on many such
issues follow the same path over time, driven by an underlying cultural policy mood
(CPM). We use more than 2,000 survey marginals, nested in more than 200 time
series, that reﬂect aggregate opinions in 16 cultural policy domains, across 38 years.
Using a dynamic principal components method, the results show that since the early
1970s, CPM has moved steadily and consistently in a liberal direction. Over this
period, changes in CPM have been tightly linked to changes in aggregate religiosity.
Opinion on two notable cultural issues—the death penalty and abortion—do not
follow CPM. While public opinion has grown increasingly anti-death-penalty for
more than a decade, over roughly the same period it has become as pro-life on
abortion as at any time since Roe v. Wade. The measurement of CPM provides
evidence of a macro construct of cultural issues that includes opinion toward many,
but not all, morality policies.
Keywords Public opinion Á Policy mood Á Collective preferences Á
Morality policy Á Cultural policy Á Abortion Á Abortion rights Á Roe v. Wade Á
Gay rights Á Death penalty Á Time series
K. Mulligan (&) Á T. Grant Á D. Bennett
Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, USA
Polit Behav (2013) 35:807–829