Hit & Run

Conjugating Ideology

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Below, Jesse links a piece by John Tierney attempting to deflate the "great divide" meme that's making the rounds this election season. Much of the argument is persuasive, and certainly it's likely a necessary antidote to some of the more hyped-up rhetoric about fundamental value chasms.

But this graphic showing how Blue and Red state voters rank themselves and the parties on a liberal-conservative gradient reminded me of that old quip about perspectives: "I am principled; you are stubborn; he's just pig-headed." Everyone thinks they're moderate; indeed, the more segregated your local community actually is by ideology, the less likely you'd be, at least intuitively, to peg your own views as to the left or right of the national median. Recall Pauline Kael's astonishment when Nixon beat McGovern—she didn't know anyone who'd voted for Nixon, and it was precisely the insularity of the circles she moved in that allowed her to think her relatively leftish views were more widely shared, more "centrist," than they really were. I also wonder whether that chart mightn't look different if respondents were broken down by Red and Blue counties rather than states, since there's some pretty significant internal variation there.