Posted on March 18, 2015

The United States Is Getting More Tolerant of Everyone (Except Racists)

Kay Steiger, Think Progress, March 16, 2015

Researchers out of San Diego State University found that the United States is becoming more tolerant than ever of communists, atheists, LGBT people and more. The only groups for which Americans didn’t become more tolerant were of people who believed black people were “genetically inferior.”

Researchers concluded that, “Americans have become increasingly tolerant of controversial beliefs and lifestyles (i.e., marginalized outgroups). They are more likely to believe that homosexuals, Communists, militarists, and the anti-religious have the right to give speeches, teach at a college, and have a book in a local library. Smaller increases appeared in tolerance for a person who claims that Blacks are genetically inferior (commonly labeled a racist).”

The study, to be published this month in the journal Social Forces, found that American adults surveyed this decade were far more tolerant of minority groups or voices than adults surveyed in the 1970s. Researchers Jean M. Twenge, Nathan T. Carter, and W. Keith Campbell used the General Social Survey, which surveys a nationally representative sample of adults on a variety of attitudes and ideas, and defined tolerance as “agreeing that controversial outgroups should be allowed public expression.” This meant that Americans were more likely to believe that “Communists, homosexuals, the anti-religious, militarists, and those believing Blacks are genetically inferior should be allowed to give a public speech, teach at a college, or have a book in a local library.”


By far the biggest progression occurred in tolerance of LGBT people. The number of people who were tolerant of a gay man teaching at a college was around 52 percent in 1972–1974 compared with 85 percent in 2010–2012. Tolerance for racists, on the other hand, barely budged.