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San Diego State Study Shows Americans Are Becoming More Tolerant

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Americans are becoming increasingly tolerant of different lifestyles and beliefs, according to results of a study announced Monday by San Diego State University.

On topics such as race, religion, free speech and same-sex marriage, Americans are more likely these days to believe that people with different views or lifestyles can and should have the same rights as others, such as giving a speech or teaching at a college, according to research by SDSU psychology professor Jean Twenge.

"When old social rules disappear, people have more freedom to live their lives as they want to, and Americans are increasingly tolerant of those choices," Twenge said. "This goes beyond well-known trends such as the increasing support for gay marriage. People are increasingly saying that it's OK for those who are different to fully participate in the community and influence everyone else."

Twenge, along with Nathan Carter and Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia, went through data from the General Social Survey, a national survey of adult Americans conducted from 1972 to 2012.

The survey included a series of questions on tolerance of people with controversial views or lifestyles, including homosexuals, atheists, militarists, communists and racists. Only tolerance for racists has decreased over time, showing people today are less tolerant of the intolerant, Twenge said.

Some recent high-profile racial incidents on campuses around the U.S. wouldn't have been noticed a few decades ago, she said.

"Now it's noticed, and the consequences can be swift," Twenge said. "It shows how much things have changed."

The biggest difference in tolerance came between the Silent Generation — people born between the mid-1920s and early 1940s — and Baby Boomers, who were born after World War II, according to Twenge.

The professor said Generation X and Millennials continued the trend toward tolerance.

The study appeared this month in the journal Social Forces.

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