Reaching well beyond traditional categories of analysis, McClosky and Brill have surveyed civil libertarian attitudes among the general public, opinion leaders, lawyers and judges, police officials, and academics. They analyze levels of tolerance in a wide range of civil liberties domains—first amendment rights, due process, privacy, and such emerging areas as women's and homosexual rights—and along numerous variables including political participation, ideology, age, and education.
The authors explore fully the differences between civil libertarian values in the abstract and applying them in specific instances. They also examine the impact of tensions between liberties (free press and privacy, for example) and between tolerance and other values (such as public safety). They probe attitudes toward recently expanded liberties, finding that even the more informed and sophisticated citizen is often unable to read on through complex new civil liberties issues.
This remarkable study offers a comprehensive assessment of the viability—and vulnerability—of beliefs central to the democratic system. It makes an invaluable contribution to the study of contemporary American institutions and attitudes.