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The More Things Change... American Identity and Mass and Elite Responses to 9/11

Deborah J. Schildkraut
Political Psychology
Vol. 23, No. 3, Special Issue: 9/11 and Its Aftermath: Perspectives from Political Psychology (Sep., 2002), pp. 511-535
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3792590
Page Count: 25
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The More Things Change... American Identity and Mass and Elite Responses to 9/11
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Abstract

This article examines conceptions of American national identity by contrasting Americans' responses to the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 with their responses to the terrorist attacks in 2001. Examinations of official rhetoric, mass media statements, and public opinion after Pearl Harbor and after 9/11 reveal changes as well as continuities in the relationship between conceptions of national identity and responses to experiencing threat in the face of diversity. Lingering ascriptivist views have been awakened by 9/11, yet this narrow image of American identity is being directly challenged by a more inclusive incorporationist tradition. This clash of symbolic conceptions of national identity results in divergence between elite rhetoric and mass opinion, with elites promoting incorporationism and ordinary citizens displaying the reawakening of ascriptivist norms.

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