Election 2012

GOP, Democratic Dead-Enders Increasingly Shrill, Polarized. Rest of Country, Not So Much.


The Cincinnati Enquirer publishes this recent (June 2012) snapshot of the increasing spread among members of the Republican and Democratic Parties. Pew has tracked attitudes among party members since 1987 and, looking at "48 political values measures" (role of government, social issues, etc.) Pew found that "the average partisan gap has nearly doubled over this 25-year period – from 10 percentage points in 1987 to 18 percentage points in the new study."

Give credit to partisan dead-enders: They realize the organizations they swear fealty to are part of the problem.

Nearly all of the increases have occurred during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. During this period, both parties' bases have often been critical of their parties for not standing up for their traditional positions. Currently, 71% of Republicans and 58% of Democrats say their parties have not done a good job in this regard.

And here's even better news that got soft-peddled by the Enquirer: It turns out that political partisans are outliers in terms of increasingly polarized attitudes. When you take the pulse of the electorate based on things such as gender, income, edumication, and the like, things have been pretty damn stable at the same time that party members have been going crazy from, well, their own party's suckitude (hey, can 71 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats be wrong?).

Here's the full Pew findings on changes in attitude across various dimensions. It doesn't show a country in full kumbaya mode (thank god), but the findings lend credibility to the important and relatively overlooked findings of Morris P. Fiorina in Culture War?. Fiorina and crew argue that while the political process has gotten progressively more polarized over the years, there's actually a huge amount of consensus and stability when it comes to many supposedly divisive issues (ranging from abortion to government spending). His book is well worth reading and helps explain why large majorities or pluralities of Americans tend to agree on many, if not most, things. And why that consensus is routinely ignored by the press and political operatives, especially during elections.

Political partisans are the nuts, not the lumpen voters, who have been deserting political parties in record numbers for years now. According to Gallup, 40 percent of voters identify as "independent." Indies are now the single-largest voting bloc in the country and who can blame anyone for refusing to belong to the Democratic or Republican parties after the last dozen years of bipartisan jib-jabbery and failed policy after failed policy? Independents will decide this election.

Matt Welch lays out the case for why indies are not only growing, but turning to the sorts of libertarian policies and candidates we laid out in our book, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, just out in paperback with a new introduction.

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  1. (hey, can 71 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats be wrong?)

    hey, can 29 of Republicans and 42 percent of Democrats be right?

    BTW, congratulations on writing a book! I didn’t know!

    1. They wrote a book? Are you serious?

  2. Can we let politics slide for one day while we get every Reason contributor’s take on the life and career of Tony Scott?

    1. Todd Akin is going to kill your hopes on that one. His foot-in-mouth routine this weekend was superlative.

      1. I picked the wrong day to care more about True Romance than TEAM politics.

  3. It turns out that political partisans are outliers in terms of increasingly polarized attitudes.

    So Tony and John (aka Red Tony) are outliers?

    That’s comforting.

    1. Unfortunately, I think most of the HNR commentariat are political outliers.

    2. A number of my friends, er associates, may not be registered Democrats or Republicans, but they certainly aren’t libertarians either.

  4. 8:30 Monday morning and we get our first “Republicans are just as bad as Democrats” article.

  5. Can anyone tell me how PEW is still in existence? Didn’t it come out that they had made up the entire “campaign finance reform” bullshit that ended up with McCain/Feingold getting passed? They purposefully molded fake public opinion about campaign finance was the story I remember. Why would anyone assume that they are not doing something similar with the rest of the issues they “study”.

    1. same way Heritage, Cato, and Brookings are still in existence. A think tank for every ideology, just like the media spectrum. Not only can you believe what you want, but you have the backing of a third party as a bonus.

    2. Ironically, the Pew family was really conservative and one wonders what old J. Howard Pew would think about this use of his family’s oil fortune.

      1. Ahh, the dowside to establishing or contributing to a (any) foundation. Charles Stewart Mott was one of the founders of General Motors and a more conservative free market capitalist you couldn’t find. After his death his idiot son took over the Mott Foundation management and they commenced to fund every whacko left wing cause imaginable.

  6. Paul Ryan is the second coming of Heinrich Himmler.

    A bunch of moderate democrats have told me so.

    1. which would make him the third coming of Henry I the Fowler

    2. I guess you know they’re moderate democrats because they didn’t say he was the second coming of Hitler.

    3. That sounds like a childrens’ book.

      “The Second Coming of Heinrich Himmler” by Dorothy Partridge. Illustrations by Stacy Blumpkin.

      1. o a porn movie

  7. Scarlett Johansson wears glasses!

  8. seems pretty likely that partisans aren’t necessarily becoming more partisan, so much as the less partisan people are no longer willing to allow themselves to be averaged in.

  9. It’s that much more intolerable, then, that the two major parties dominate the America polity. Better that the candidates stand for office on the merits of their individual ideas; and that the voters choose among them accordingly, without regard for party platforms.

    For this to be so, our current system must be substantially altered:


  10. The leaders of the main political parties out of step with the rank and file? What else is new?

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