Winning Over a Cynical Public

The Debate Over Stem Cell Research and Other Biotechnologies

Authored by: Bonnie Stabile , Susan J. Tolchin

Routledge Handbook of Political Management

Print publication date:  August  2008
Online publication date:  March  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415962254
eBook ISBN: 9780203892138
Adobe ISBN: 9781135897499

10.4324/9780203892138.ch40

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Abstract

Over time, Americans have traditionally been distrustful of government, and disdainful of authority in general.1 Their attitudes toward government, which range from healthy skepticism to scathing cynicism, are often credited with maintaining a healthy democracy by acting as a mechanism for keeping politicians and policymakers honest.2 At times, the cynicism of citizens is seen as a threat to the political process, leading to apathy, antagonism or even “a decaying of the social and political order.”3 Since the 1970s studies have shown that cynicism is on the rise,4 paralleling a “long-term slide in public confidence in the core institutions of representative democracy.”5 And while some scholars maintain that “robust predictors of trust or confidence” are elusive, they acknowledge “a contemporary zeitgeist of suspicion and cynicism,”6 a veritable “epidemic” of cynicism blamed for the “deterioration of public discourse.”7

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