These are just some of the fundamental questions that inform the arguments presented by the authors of this book. While a considerable number of experts hold the opinion that American society is conservative, an equally good number of experts find it to incline more towards liberalism. This book endeavors to understand this contradiction of opinions. I
The challenge of classifying American society into either conservative or liberal stems from paradoxical nature of the public opinion. Ellis and Stimson attach this difficulty to the duality of opinion that seems to emanate from this population. For instance, the American public symbolically portrays itself as conservative in cherishing the symbols of conservatism. This has the implication that citizens are likely to describe themselves as conservative rather than as liberal. As a matter of fact, the conservative tag has been used for 70 years, and increasingly so since the early 1960s. On the other hand, by taking the operational dimension, this same population wants the government to carry on and commit itself more in solving a number of social problems and economic issues. Some of the issues in the economic dimension include government spending, income equality, taxes, and benefits that accrue to the poor and needy in the society. In general, the above issues raise a question relating to the right role and scope of the government.
Ellis and Stimson are convincing in their argument by asserting that the American public may be described based on two facets: Symbolically as conservative, and operationally as liberal. Noteworthy is the categorization of symbolic conservative into two large groups. They describe the first group as being conflicted conservatives who subscribe to liberal policy tastes across the board.