This paper is both a criticism and extension of a small existing literature on procedural norms and tolerance which has been influential in several interpretations of American politics but which suffers from both conceptual and empirical shortcomings.
The existing literature concludes that tolerance is not widely distributed in the American mass public: unpopular groups such as Communists or atheists would not be allowed political activity by most Americans despite supposed acceptance by all of the principle of minority rights. The literature suggests that hostile attitudes towards the issue or group involved prevents application of the tolerant general norm in specific instances.
By failing to adequately measure or control for either issue orientation or general norms, however, the existing literature risks misrepresenting the actual extent and character of tolerance. This study discusses the weaknesses of the existing literature, describes how such weaknesses can be eliminated, and reports data which modify and expand the findings of past research for an updated set of issues, groups, and political acts.