Culture War

Liberals and Conservatives Hate Each Other So Much They Won't Live Together? What's the Problem?


Red vs. Blue
** RCB ** / Foter

Have you heard about the great political divide that sets red against blue—the national polarization touted by breathless news stories about an already pretty gasp-y report by the Pew Research Center? "Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines—and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive—than at any point in the last two decades," according to Pew. And while I suspect the divide is at least as much about tribal identity as it is about actual differences in ideology, it doesn't take much more than that to get people thoroughly pissed at each other.

In fact, reports Pew, Team Red and Team Blue don't even want to live near each other. "People on the right and left also are more likely to say it is important to them to live in a place where most people share their political views." It's not just ideology—the kinds of communities the teams prefer are at odds, with liberals favoring walkable urban settings and conservatives favoring roomier suburban and rural communities.

Wait a minute. Frankly, this seem to be a problem that can easily solve itself.

The phenomenon of political groups congregating with one another and away from the opposition has been reported upon before.

"The places where we live are becoming increasingly crowded with people who live, think, and vote like we do," Bill Bishop noted in his 2008 book, The Big Sort. In a country driven by personal choice, he claimed, one thing Americans have been choosing to do is to live among the like-minded—and at a distance from those holding opposing views.

The new Pew report suggests that this phenomenon continues, fueled by preference for different lifestyles that happen to line up with political tribal affiliations. Both Pew and Bishop warn of dire consequences as a result.

But…How is this a problem? If people with common preferences and values choose to live near one another, shouldn't that reduce friction? At least, this seems like an excellent way to minimize conflicts over policies, so long as most policy choices are made at local levels by all of these like-minded people clustering together.

On the other hand, centralizing decision making defeats much of the purpose of clustering together, since people inevitably get unwelcome policies foisted on them by those awful people who live incomprehensible lives elsewhere.

Political sorting is actually a solution to deep ideological divides—if that sorting lets people live the way they want. But if people go through all of that trouble of moving away from the opposition, only to find alien rules, laws, and taxes jammed down their throats, you can see why "partisan antipathy" might get a little heated.

Today, Ron Bailey noted that research finds libertarian-minded people to be exceptionally smart. Which may be why we're able to tolerate the foibles of our annoying liberal and conservative neighbors.

NEXT: Ronald Bailey Asks: Are Conservatives Dumber than Liberals?

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  1. This obvious solution is to empty the cities and create an agrarian society. What could go wrong?

    1. Corporate land barons. Do you even have garden?

  2. I’m the only libertarian I know. Where the hell are the rest of you?

    1. In hell for having to much fun

    2. You probably know more than you think. It’s one of those things that is wise to keep in the closet. Like being an atheist. Unless you want to be shunned.

      1. I’m also an atheist, so that’s probably why I have almost no personal contact with people outside my family.

      2. Yeah, when I hear some dipshit D or R go on a misinformed, poorly reasoned rant, I usually just shut up. Especially if everyone else around is agreeing.

    3. Invoking your name across the fruited plain.

      You never answer.

      1. Your words, fly up, your thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

  3. Yeah but what does U of L vs Ky got to do with libertarianism?

  4. Yeah but what does U of L vs Ky got to do with libertarianism?

    1. Is this another one of those posts about peewee league sports? Sheesh, get a life.

  5. Another possibility; the liberals can’t afford to live in their progressive paradises and move to cheaper, more conservative pastures and don’t like the (icky) cheaper, more conservative people that live there already.

    1. CA residents moving to NV, MA residents moving to NH and commuting, etc.

      Variations of this seem to play out with people in Austin moving to Houston, people leaving San Francisco to live in Pleasanton.

  6. Lke-minded, but opposing, groups living together might “reduce friction” in the short term, but long-term effect is that all “teams” will develop a lower level of understanding and relatability to the “other” side, and create incentive to judge someone too heavily on where they’re from. Increased polarization will not help make things better for everyone, it will mean that EVERY thing that gets decided politically will make at least half the land unhappy, no matter what you choose.

    1. Then let the different groups – who have irreconcilable differences of political opinion – form separate nations.

      1. It increased *centralization* of decision making that is the problem here, not people separating into ideological enclaves.

      2. YEah, I’m actually all for this. “You want Progatopia, I want Libertopis – let’s form separate entities!”

        1. Nah. You guys will pollute the air – our air – so “progressive policies for all” is the only reasonable approach.

        2. “Sure, but leave all your ill-gotten gains back here in the People’s Republic of America! You dirty kulak wrecker!!!”

          1. I’d start over from scratch if I had a guarantee they wouldn’t go after me afterwards.

    2. “Increased polarization will not help make things better for everyone, it will mean that EVERY thing that gets decided politically will make at least half the land unhappy, no matter what you choose.”

      Unless it results in secession in which case each side could live however it wants …that might be the best option actually. More options for everyone.

      1. Or, you know, federalism.

        Let NY and TX have different laws.

        1. Tell that to Bloomberg.

        2. I don’t want NYC laws, I want New Amsterdam and Lawn Guyland separated from the real New York.

    3. So why not just break up a huge nation of 330 million into a bunch of smaller nations? That way, people can go to the country that best suits their preference.

      1. Because the politicians would never allow it. Part of their enormous power comes from being a top politician in a huge and powerful country. Break it up into smaller pieces, and they lose that power.

        It is in the interests of the people to break up into smaller units, but it is in the interests of the politicians to be as large of a single unit as possible. They are fundamentally opposed to the interests of the people and they know it.

        1. Oh, I know they “why” in terms of practical politics. What I don’t get is how people don’t grasp that it’s a way for everyone to have their way. Want to start your own communist worker’s paradise? Go off to your own state and do so. When I talk about breaking up the U.S. (or any other country) into much smaller autonomous units, and allowing people to vote with their feet, the sputtering reaction I usually get is, “But…but…we’re united! You can’t just not be united…it’s a more perfect union. MORE PERFECT!”

      2. I’ve heard ancient stories about a “constitution”. Thus constitution had some arcane law called “the 10th amendment”. This allowed like minded folks to make their own rules as long as they didn’t violate the individual rights of others. But folks couldn’t stand letting other folks live any other way than the way they deemed proper. So they just decided to try and out asshole each othet the best they could.

        1. And they’re doing a damn fine job of it.

      3. Because then they can’t spend your money in any way they see fit. While conservatives on the whole adore this concept, liberals blanch when they consider how much fun it would be to bunk in with each other.

  7. But … doesn’t Mary Stack live in Texas? Not exactly a left-wing state …

    1. Why do you think she’s insane?

      1. Genetic defects?

  8. I don’t know how much of it is ideology, and how much of it is a practical matter. I don’t mind living around people of either ideology. But, when it comes time to chose a place to live, red areas are almost always lower tax and lower cost of living, which is a very important consideration.

    1. And usually lower regulation. There may be a church every 10 feet, but they don’t make you attend. Leftist paradises like to make it legally obligatory to follow tons of minute regulations.

      1. Less regulation and legislation often means fewer police and fewer assholes on the force.

        Leftists are totalitarians, and you need lots of asshole cops to enforce totalitarian rule.

  9. Liberals and Conservatives Hate Each Other So Much They Won’t Live Together? What’s the Problem?

    The problem is that the progressive cults can’t recruit new members if they aren’t stealthily umongst them. And the other problem is that proggies are such assholes that even they hate living with groups of other proglodytes.

    1. Or progressives don’t breed, so they need to “feed” off of the conservatives.

  10. Whatever. So surprising that “birds of a feather” would “flock together”.

    Yeah – I joined the fraternity of guys I hated who hated me in college. I selected as friends people whom I despise and whose views I reject. I married the ugliest girl I could find who was boring and grating at the same time.

    Obvious behavior pattern is obvious.

    1. Eh, I had a woman tell me we were too good friends to date.

      So obviously some people deliberately seek out those they don’t get along with.

      1. I never had a woman tell me I was “too good” at anything.

        Wait a minute…

        1. “You’re too good for me.”

      2. Or she was letting you down easy because she like having you around to fix her computer and do the occasional heavy lifting.

        1. So you’re saying Agammamon is a Cleveland Brown?

          1. Or his woman is a….now I’m confused…

        2. Oh, she was letting me down easy.

          And when she said it, a lightbulb came on – obviously we weren’t such good friends that you would think that that statement would make any sense *and* you didn’t think being honest with me was the thing to do.

          In any case, I moved on, and she keeps dating the same sort of men that she’s already divorced twice.

          1. What can I say, it sucks…

          2. It’s textbook “friend zone”. No point in giving it another thought.

            1. Yeah, Stephen King wrote a scary novel about a guy who was in the friend zone for years, then woke up and suddenly found he could psychically tell when women weren’t interested in him.

              1. What?

              2. Wasn’t that a crappy Mel Gibson movie?

  11. “But…How is this a problem? If people with common preferences and values choose to live near one another, shouldn’t that reduce friction?”

    Actually no it increases it by creating echo chambers and making the other guys seem like dangerous extremists.

    Lets take a mytical arbitrary scale from -5 to 5 liberal on the left conservative on the right.

    If you live in a community where the most conservative or liberal person is at 1 then a an actual liberal at -1 looks like a very dangerous radical and a conservative at 2.5 looks like a centrist to you and that perfectly reasonable policy that sits at 2 looks like being 1 step short of the return of Hitler to someone who is at -2 but never encounters anyone past -1 in their daily life.

    1. The only reason that political differences cause friction in the first place is because politics is inherently violent. I have never had a violent argument about which salad dressing is best with my greens.

      1. And you can keep that streak up as long as you don’t say Ranch (Ranch is a dip not a dressing)

        1. I will hold you high in my councils.

  12. Personally, I want to live somewhere with about a medium density, access to high end men’s products, and pretty socially conservative in a WASP-y kind of way.

    I don’t mind living 2 towns over from hipster paradise, but I don’t want to live among them.

  13. People should be completely free to live where and around whom they choose. However, like ghettoization on the internet where people go to forums and the like where they only hear what they like to hear, living among very like-minded people causes one to hear vastly less opposing viewpoints, and also causes the amplification of certain extreme viewpoints within their own group. I am in no way saying that this should be stopped or interfered with in any way, it’s just that as times change, new issues will crop up. Our increased ability to move and live where we want is partly because of the internet, as is the ability to go only to echo-chambers for your news and discussion. The rise in more extreme partisanship and tribalism has tracked pretty squarely with the rise of the internet, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. We’re seeing, for the first time, how human tribalism changes when much larger numbers of people are in communication or living with the like-minded.

    It’s just something that will evolve and change and we’ll have to see how that effects things. Unfortunately, I think an end result so far has been an increase in government because of the increase in tribal partisanship. The politicians smartly realized that they can use this tribalism to their advantage and to increase their power, and they’ve been doing just that.

    1. I’m not praising the present situation, but polarization strikes me as pretty much a constant.

      There wasn’t an Internet in 1861-65, but there was still a wee bit of polarization.

      Before the Internet, we had newspapers which each tended to reflect a particular political position. Lots of people subscribed to the paper they agreed with. People sometimes hate-read the other guys’ papers, often for the purpose of writing rebuttals in their own papers, like blogging today.

      The “consensus” media culture was the reflection of a particular historical moment and squeezed out perfectly valid viewpoints – like limited government.

  14. On the other hand, if there’s two major political groups in society, people not part of either may be better off if they live together, and thus has to adopt a legal system that can accomodate multiple points of view, than if they segregate and each can impose their will in their particular areas.

    A choice between two flavors of authoritarianism isn’t a win for libertarians.

  15. Just remember – there’s two kinds of people in this world: those who think there’s two kinds of people in this world, and those who don’t.


    1. There’s 10 kinds of people in this world: those who understand binary, and those who don’t.

      1. There are 10 kinds of people in the world. Those who understand binary, those who don’t, those who pick their noses in public, those who can’t read, those who think Michael Bay makes good movies, those who think Watchdogs is a really good game, those who think David Lynch’s Dune is freakin’ awesome, and those who understand octal.

        1. Some of us prefer to HEX.

  16. Gee, I wonder if it has something to do with people using ever-expanding government power to take increasing control over everyone’s lives…


  17. I would like to live in an area where the political is not personalized. Probably has a bit to do with a move I’m planning.

    1. I totally agree, except areas aren’t where the political is personalized, people are where the political is personalized. You can live just about anywhere and avoid that crap if you just avoid people who make the personal political. And believe me, I avoid those people like the plague, and I’ve lived pretty happily in a bunch of places because of it.

      1. That only works up to a point. Once these people reach a critical mass they will *impose* themselves on you.

  18. I don’t see wanting to live where most people share your political views as being equivalent to an “echo chamber” mentality. In my 20s I was mostly anti-progressive in my viewpoint, but lived in a couple of progressive-leaning cities and even took pride in my open-minded lifestyle. That was until I realized the detrimental effect living in such a place had on my ability to hold down a job. The culture and local policies were anti-freedom and anti-business. So I left in my late 20s, and I haven’t looked back. That doesn’t mean I want to shelter myself intellectually. It means I learned that open-mindedness is often a justification for allow yourself to become a slave to tyranny.

  19. I just wish all those Mass holes would stop moving up here to New Hampshire. Don’t like our culture, then don’t move here. Seriously, I like sound of distant gun fire here in rural NH. It sounds like…..freedom.

    1. “I like sound ?” What I meant was “Me like sound…

  20. How is this a problem?

    See, when the ISIS/Zombie [fill in your choice of barbarians] hordes head to your town, and your heroic baby-burnin’ Swatties and jack-booted thugs flee to the hills – do you want to be surrounded by 100% gun-fearing, correct-thinking, progressive-feeling people? Maybe you’d like a few thousand bloody-minded and well-armed heretics (who also want to protect their property and loved ones) in you neighborhood.

    I can’t think of an obverse side to this. What do progressives bring to the table?

  21. “conservatives favoring roomier suburban and rural communities.”

    How much of this is really related to a preference for ideological groupthink?

    Couldn’t that be driven simply by the fact that people who identify as conservative are more likely to get married younger, have kids earlier, resulting in a bigger family, and thus, a need for more space?

  22. “liberals and conservatives hate each other so much they won’t live together. What’s the problem?”


    Next question…

  23. Not I believe the first time a or the survey has found this. The reason tho is simple: Democrats are the party of women and the other emotionally challenged.

  24. That there is difference between the two socialist parties in USSA is an artifact of two centuries ago. When results are viewed, the Demcrooks and Repulicons are different in name only. Total eradication of both is absolutely necessary for the survival of the Republic. The future holds little hope for freedom, liberty, justice, happiness and the American way if politicians are left to run (into the ground) the government. You can play their game of liberal/conservative but it serves only their purpose: to enslave you. Res ipsa loquitor. ?2014 All rights reserved. Not intended as legal, accounting, tax or other professional consultation. Protected by Federal law and international treaty. For educational use only. PS: It is not by happenstance that “politician” is not mentioned in the founding documents, nor that the second amendment says “arms”, not pistol and long rifle.

  25. Different ecological niches. The problem is the red wants to legislate for the blue and the blue for the red.


  26. I think conservatives would be perfectly happy to self segregate – go live in the country and be left alone. Obviously, leftists are not going to allow that. They’re like Al-Quaid. We can leave the battlefield, but that doesn’t mean they won’t continue the fight, or that they won’t bring it to our neighborhood. The best thing to do is engage and destroy.

  27. “Frankly, this seem to be a problem that can easily solve itself”

    Forced busing comes to mind. Make these two spectrums get used to each other as children. Worked great for racial busing in the 70’s.

  28. i can’t even drink a glass of water around a liberal

  29. This was not an issue in the past. But today, government intrudes into our lives more than ever, at the request of statists who want government to intrude in your life.

    While you may not be interested in politics and politicians, they are interested in you and your money. Just like you may not be interested in war, but war may be interested in you. And just like you may not want to be around criminals or have any interest in them, but they are certainly very interested in you.

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