Political Science

The Political Class May Be Polarized, But That Doesn't Mean the Rest of America Is Too

The myth of the Red/Blue nation

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ZTT

We are constantly told that America is not merely a divided nation but a nation whose divisions have split us into two big tribes, one colored red and one colored blue. The Stanford political scientist Morris Fiorina has spent years undermining that simplistic portrait of the country; in a new paper for the Hoover Institution, he reviews the research and reveals a far more complicated picture. Here are five lessons he draws:

1. The political class really is getting more polarized…

If you limit its scope to elected officials and professional activists, the polarization thesis has some truth to it. Since the early '70s, the parties have gone through a sorting process, to the point where the most left-wing Republican in either house of Congress is now more conservative than the most right-wing congressional Democrat. With a few exceptions, a similar trend can be seen in state legislatures. (*) Surveys show that party activists have gone through a similar process. So have political donors. In all these cases, Fiorina reports, the data "capture our intuitive understanding of the concept of polarization: the middle loses to the extremes."

2. …but the general public has not followed suit.

The class described in point #1 represents about 15 percent of the country. Things look different, Fiorina writes, when you look at "the rest of the electorate, whom I will refer to as normal people."

Over the last four decades, there has been little change in how Americans describe themselves ideologically—the most popular category in such surveys is still "moderate," without a big exodus to the liberal and conservative poles. Opinions have shifted on some specific topics, but not always in the same direction: Americans have gotten more liberal on certain issues, such as health insurance, and more conservative on others, such as aid to minorities. (Fiorina doesn't mention it, but on some issues the very definitions of the "liberal" and "conservative" positions haven't been stable.) Meanwhile, even as the parties have sorted, much of the public has at least symbolically resisted the sorting: The number of Americans identifying themselves as "independents" has increased considerably over the same period.

3. The more politically active you are, the less well-informed you are about these trends in grassroots opinion.

Both normal Americans and the political class tend to exaggerate the extent that the general public is polarized. But the politicos do much more of this, projecting their divisions onto the electorate at large. "Ironically," Fiorina writes, "the great majority of Americans whose lives do not revolve around politics are more accurate in their political perceptions than their more politically involved compatriots."

4. The stronger your partisan affiliations, the more likely you are to misconstrue what life is like at the other end of spectrum…

Fiorina shows this in several ways, but this is my favorite illustration:

Democrats think that 44 percent of Republicans make more than $250,000 per year, when the actual percentage is 2, and that 44 percent of Republicans are senior citizens, when the actual percentage is 21. For their part, Republicans think that 36 percent of Democrats are atheists or agnostics, when the actual percentage is about 9, and that 38 percent of Democrats are LGBT, when the true percentage is about 6. Once again, the more politically involved the respondent, the greater the misperception. The tendency of political media to highlight the most colorful and controversial personalities in the two parties ("exempli?cation") likely contributes to this state of extreme misperception….The very vocal and visible activist groups who shape the parties' agendas are another likely contributor.

5. …but that doesn't mean we're retreating into smaller bubbles.

There's a popular notion that Americans in the cable/internet era are sliding into parallel partisan universes. That isn't easy to reconcile with the idea that most Americans are not getting more partisan, and Fiorina cites several studies that throw cold water on the idea. A paper on Twitter users, for example, found that "Twitter networks tend to be fairly heterogeneous politically, in part because many of those in them are connected by only 'weak ties.' Contrary to the fears expressed by those worried about ideological segregation, social media actually may lessen people's tendency to live in echo chambers."

The portrait that emerges is one where most Americans mix their opinions more messily than their elected representatives do, refrain from relying on Fox- or MSNBC-style sources for their news, and do not put their political opinions first when forging their personal or collective identities. Adjust your tribal maps accordingly.

(* Fiorina mentions four states whose governments have not been getting more ideologically polarized: Louisiana, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and West Virginia. Noting that "some of the least polarized legislatures have a reputation for petty corruption," he speculates that "legislators who are skimming o? the top are more likely to make bipartisan deals to keep the gravy train running smoothly.")

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  1. when the actual percentage is about 9, and that 38 percent of Democrats are LGBT, when the true percentage is about 6

    Ok, can you blame Republicans for getting this wrong, when 88% of what Democrats have talked about for the last 24 months is LGBTQ2I issues?

    1. It’s also makes you wonder why some people fought so hard to stop 6 percent of democrats from getting married.

      1. Who knows. Maybe the Republicans actually believed that 90% of the population was gay- and they were the six percent, holding the line on the burning remnants of “straight” marriage.

        But there’s a lot of evidence that there weren’t a lot of people trying to stop the 6% from getting married. Like the Democrats, it was probably a small percentage of “colorful, controversial personalities”.

        I thought this passage by Fiorina was pretty well stated:

        The tendency of political media to highlight the most colorful and controversial personalities in the two parties (“exempli?cation”) likely contributes to this state of extreme misperception….The very vocal and visible activist groups who shape the parties’ agendas are another likely contributor.

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      2. I wasn’t aware of a movement by Republicans to stop gay people from gettng gay-married.

        There *has been* a movement to deny state recognition, not the same thing.

        1. Without state recognition, you don’t get the legal and (mostly) monetary benefits of marriage.

          Yes, the movement to push for gay marriage spun is as “the right to love my partner” which was great for soundbites, but the real issue was benefits, state and federal. If you deny a group that ‘state recognition’, you deny them access to those federal benefits. I’ve complained bitterly at the shocking number of financial benefits come as a result of being married, but that’s a separate subject. If you’re going to have equality before the law (and yes, the ‘concept’ of marriage can be stretched to include other things that have nothing with “2 people” joining in holy matrimony) gay people should have a right to get married.

          1. If its about benefits, then the pro-gay marriage people should have focused on benefits.

            1. They did– at least at times. I nearly drove off the road when someone on NPR noted that there were some 12,000 benefits available to married couples that gay people were denied.

              My shock wasn’t about gay marriage, but that we got to a place where there were over 12,000 enumerated federal benefits, just if you were married.

              And people don’t believe that 84% of what the federal government does is wealth transfer payments.

              But seriously, think about it. Two lesbians, one is a cop (you notice how I go right to the stereotype?). The cops partner is not eligible for any of the death benefits if cop-lesbian driver her car off the road while tapping on the terminal. That’s simply unfair because without state recognition of gay marriage, that benefit isn’t available to her partner, but available to the rest of us who were dumb enough to say “I do”.

              1. “But seriously, think about it. Two lesbians, one is a cop (you notice how I go right to the stereotype?). The cops partner is not eligible for any of the death benefits if cop-lesbian driver her car off the road while tapping on the terminal. That’s simply unfair”

                I don’t care. Increasing the influence of the state is a stupid solution to this problem, and a lot of supposedly principled libertarians accepted it.

                The world is chock full of unfair situations.

                The solution is not more state interference, at least not to a principled libertarian.

                1. While getting the state out of marriage all together would be preferable, if you’re going to have it as a legal institution. How is anti-libertarian to argue it should be extended equitably?

                  Think of it this way, you’re reducing how much the state is using marriage to socially engineer the ideal family.

                  1. I am not saying it is anti-libertarian. I am saying it is more libertarian to focus entirely on the former.

                  2. “How is anti-libertarian to argue it should be extended equitably?”

                    It explicitly legitimizes the state’s role, and endorsed an increase in state power.

                    1. *applause*

                      It’s amazing how many libertarians willfully ignore this point.

                    2. support for marriage expansion is indeed anti-libertarian. It is known.

                    3. It explicitly legitimizes the state’s role, and endorsed an increase in state power.

                      Right, but you realize the expansiveness of this argument.

                      It would be akin to refusing to issue concealed carry permits to people because it ‘legitimizes the role of the state’– leaving millions of people not able to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

                      So you can keep everyone in limbo while you argue deep libertarian theory about ‘legitimizing the role of the state’ by refusing to support a system which issues licenses for conceal carry, or you can support the idea- at least giving some people the opportunity to exercise that right.

                      If I really believed that we were teetering on the cusp of removing the state from the marriage business, I’d be more amenable to this argument– as I was with ‘medicalized’ marijuana– something I argued against many a libertarian about. “Medicalize it now, worry about the perfect system later’. But we’re light years away from removing the state from the marriage business.

                    4. It would be akin to refusing to issue concealed carry permits to people because it ‘legitimizes the role of the state’– leaving millions of people not able to exercise their 2nd amendment rights.

                      Do you realize this is a commonly held stance among the gun rights crowd? The belief that permitting schemes are unconstitutional is behind the push that has let to permitless concealed and open carry in 10 states so far. It’s a quiet, but persistent movement, and it’s been surprisingly effective. Over the past 30 years we have gone from a nation where both permitless and “shall issue” permits for concealed carry were anomalous to a system were only a handful of states are not “shall issue” and fully a fifth of all U.S. states require no permit at all.

            2. That wouldn’t have generated the soundbites or sympathy as well as bleating about not being able to live their lives and love who they want or whatever. Also, focusing on benefits would have also maybe caused some folks to question why the government was handing out benefits and privileges based on relationship status in the first place, which no one – gay or straight – wanted. Except of course for us libertarian weirdos and extremists.

              1. Getting the government out of marriage is a political non-starter, even if all 22 libertarians stood firm with that notion. Having a percentage of the population denied a right while libertarians stare down republicans and Democrats over reducing the regulatory footprint of the state so we could finally get the marriage regime the country ultimately should have, leaves that percentage without their rights and subsequent benefits.

                I agree, as a libertarian, I’ve spent most of my adult life being told not to die on this or that hill, but this really was a hill (getting government out of marriage) that we WOULD have died on and it would have been for naught.

                1. Getting the government out of marriage is a political non-starter

                  Two states have taken steps in that general direction.

                  The Overton window is open wider.

                  In other words, you are wrong.

                  1. The federal government still recognizes marriage. If that state (whatever those states are– and ‘steps toward’ is pretty damned squishy) stops recognizing marriage, the federal government still has metrics for deciding who’s legally married and not. I’m guessing if ‘state x’ were to ‘get out of the marriage business’ (highly unlikely) the Federal government would pick up the ball.

                    1. OK and AL. And yes, fairly squishy. Neither was an entire getting out of the business proposal, but one, IIRC, was a bigger step than the other. Both were moves in the right direction.

                2. Having a percentage of the population denied a right

                  The right to free shit? The right to state recognition? The right to force people to bake cakes? Which positive right are we talking about here?

                  1. Marriage is a collective, like labor unions and corporations. As such they can only have rights legislated for them. Only individuals possess (negative) rights innately.

                    1. Only individuals possess (negative) rights innately.

                      This pretty much means that freedom of assembly (freedom of association) is a positive right. I’m not hopping on that bandwagon.

                3. Funny how many hills libertarians have decided aren’t worth dying on these days.

            3. It was never about the benefits. Those were just used as arguments. You could have provided absolutely every benefit given to married couples to same-sex couples but call it something different. Maybe something like, just off the top of my head, a “domestic partnership”. That still would not have been enough.

        2. Your deliberately obtuse know-nothingism makes baby Mohammed cry, Eddie.

          Marriage is a legal status conferred by the state on two licensees. Denying state recognition to that status is incoherent.

          1. “Marriage is a legal status conferred by the state on two licensees.”

            Not it’s not, statist.

            1. Brilliantly refuted, professor. I guess you win by default because you’ve given me nothing of substance to respond to.

              1. To be 100% fair, you didn’t either, you just asserted it.

                I had thought marriage was a *pre-state* institution, and the state’s job is simply to recognize it where it exists, and not recognize it where it doesn’t exist.

                1. Welp you’re wrong. Two people can call themselves married if they like, but if they want to have that relationship recognized by employers, healthcare providers, schools, banks, and any number of other institutions, they need a state-issued license. Otherwise checking the married box on forms could theoretically constitute an actionable falsehood.

                  And two people who don’t consider themselves married in any romantic or religious sense can still be capital-m married so long as they have the proper paperwork on file with the state conjugal registry.

                  Marriage has nothing to do with the relationship between people ,and everything to do with two peoples’ relationship with the state.

                  1. How about we agree to disagree?

                    (you’re wrong)

                    1. It’s neat how some of you become REAL principled* when you think it fucks over the right people.

                      We can’t give gays legal equality because we have to get the state out of marriage!

                      We can’t allow freedom of movement or contract because we have a welfare state!

                      We have to discriminate by religion because a small minority believes things we don’t like!

                      If the government started denying concealed carry to Christians, there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO CHANCE you would argue that there was no point extending it back to Christians, because the 2nd Amendment allows you to cary wherever you want.

                      Because you’re a hypoxrite, and a liar. You opposed gay marriage because you don’t like or care about gay people. It’s obvious, and you fool no one.

                    2. Hey Gojira, we got another mind reader in here.

                    3. We can’t give gays legal equality because we have to get the state out of marriage!

                      WAAAAH GIMME MY FREE SHIT!!!!! It’s funny how many “libertarians” go all authoritarian statist whenever the postmodern progressive cultural ox is being gored.

                      We can’t allow freedom of movement . . . because we have a welfare state!

                      Freedom of movement is a positive “right” that “exists” solely because of the concept of public land. I bet you can’t name a single other association of people who should be forced to allow strangers to trespass on their land. The state is an association of people, even if it’s a really shitty and coercive one.

                      We have to discriminate by religion because a small minority believes things we don’t like!

                      ?? I’d love to have the 1st Amendment freedom of association restored to its former glory. Too bad we’re too busy fighting over whether Christian bakers should be forced to bake gay cakes and what bathrooms crazy people should use.

                      If the government started denying concealed carry to Christians, there is ABSOLUTELY ZERO CHANCE you would argue that there was no point extending it back to Christians, because the 2nd Amendment allows you to cary wherever you want

                      a GOVERNMENT BENEFIT is not the same as a NATURAL RIGHT. The 2nd Amendment is a NATURAL RIGHT. Gov’t sponsored marriage is a GOV’T BENEFIT.

                      It’s like progressivetarians don’t have coherent principles.

                    4. I’m not – in any sense – a progressive. I’m an AnCap, guided by the NAP. I am no friend of progressivism or social conservatism, because I actually believe in the principles of the movement – though if someone were attempting to classify me, there is no way they would ever use “progressive”.

                      If you’re going to have a government benefit or program, its execution MUST treat citizens equally, as those same citizens have their property forcibly confiscated to fund it. Whether to have that benefit or regulation is an entirely different conversation than whether or not citizens should be treated equally, or differently because some other people think buttfucking is icky.

                      As for your idiotic supposition that refusing freedom of movement and contract to those born outside of the US is totally cool because the government is protecting the social contract…well, I’ll wait for you to think it through and realize that this is the argument you made before expecting you to have a coherent rebuttal ready.

                    5. I’m not arguing over gay cakes or trans bathrooms, as I don’t find either to be all that important in any immediate sense. I’m all about freedom of association, but reversing the civil rights movement in the private sphere isn’t really all that pressing of an issue, in that society is nowhere near ready for that conversation. The bathroom issue was completely contrived. Gay and trans can do their thing, but I place no higher or lower value on them than anyone else. Everyone gets the same treatment, because we are inherently individuals, and not pieces of a collective. Maybe spend some time considering that principle, too.

                      You could try to actually address the content of this post, or you could dumbshit out some more emotional pablum, and laughably attempt to label me a progressive, or cosmotarian, or whatever other stupid label y’all are using now to describe Libertarians who aren’t knee-jerk GOP apologists.

                  2. Otherwise checking the married box on forms could theoretically constitute an actionable falsehood.

                    This sort of encapsulates the whole thing, I think. I agree that marriage should be just about the relationship two (or more, for all I care) people have. But it isn’t. Try convincing an employer that you are married if you don’t have the state certificate. I have. It doesn’t work. And you don’t get untaxed health insurance for your spouse.

                    I would prefer that there just be some civil union thing that any two people can enter into and take the word “marriage” out of law. But that isn’t what it is now and it’s not likely to change.

                    1. Try convincing an employer that you are married if you don’t have the state certificate. I have.

                      Liar.

                    2. Nope. It really happened. Go fuck yourself.

                  3. Marriage has nothing to do with the relationship between people ,and everything to do with two peoples’ relationship with the state

                    The state had zero role in sanctioning/approving ‘marriage’ for most of human history. Sure, its changed a lot over time, but its generally had more to do with different families engaging in baby-making contracts. its an institution that pre-dates the state and which the state has largely left in the hands of churches/tribal powers.

                    1. That will be extremely helpful to know if I ever fall into a wormhole and find myself transported to the distant past.

                    2. That will be extremely helpful to know if I ever fall into a wormhole and find myself transported to the distant past.

                      Marriage never fundamentally transformed the second the state got involved.

                      When you say, “Marriage has nothing to do with the relationship between people” – that’s wrong both in terms of the history of the institution as well as its contemporary incarnation. The only difference is that the state inserted itself somewhere along the line. Simply because it did doesn’t erase the social purpose it served for thousands of years.

                      Its a stupid statement, and your “the past is old” handwaving is equally stupid.

                  4. if they want to have that relationship recognized by employers, healthcare providers, schools, banks, and any number of other institutions, they need a state-issued license.

                    Not true. For example, employers can recognize or not. Up to the individual employer. Only exceptions is where the state intervenes.

                    Marriage existed well before the state started licensing them.

                    1. Not true. For example, employers can recognize or not. Up to the individual employer. Only exceptions is where the state intervenes.

                      Those exceptions are pretty big and gaping.

                    2. Those exceptions are the problem we should be focused on.

                  5. Common-law marriage is a thing in some states.

                  6. For more than 25 years I had never been required to present a marriage license to an employer or insurer to prove my spouse was my spouse. That only changed about 3 years ago with my most recent employer (grapnted, I don’t change employers very often).

                    My personal experience has been that the push for gay marriage has effectively increased state participation in marriage.

          2. know-nothingism

            When did references to “anti-immigrant” sentiment suddenly become shorthand for anything inconsistent with the liberal-consensus?

            1. But the “deliberately obtuse” part is valid, I think.

              There is marriage that is the personal or religious commitment that people make to each other. Then there is marriage the legal agreement and special status under the law. Both are real things that exist. Eddie is pretending both meanings aren’t substantially relevant in the current situation.

              1. i’m not trying to take up eddie’s cause here = i’m just pointing out that the phrase is completely misplaced.

              2. Why would any libertarian give a fuck about the 2nd meaning?

                1. Why would any libertarian give a fuck about the 2nd meaning?

                  Um, because it is a real thing that affects people’s lives. I can tell you why I did. So I could get health insurance for my wife.

                  Tell me robc, did you get your marriage registered by the state? I don’t think I’ve ever seen your answer to that question. If so, why?

                  1. Yes, I did, it pissed Tonio off.

                    I did it because my wife wanted it.

                    I would have been fine without the paper if my wife & minister were okay with it.

                    1. I did it because my wife wanted it.

                      Why would any libertarian give a fuck what some statist wants?

                    2. That’s what I figured. And I can’t blame you. But maybe give some other people a break who also find some utility in the arrangement, be it for work related benefits, or domestic tranquility.

              3. Marriage IMHO exists independently of state recognition and even sometimes in defiance of it.

                For instance, if the state chooses to pretend an interracial marriage doesn’t exist, the marriage is no less valid for that.

                Likewise, if the state chooses to pretend that a same-sex relationship is a marriage, that doesn’t make it so.

                1. Marriage IMHO exists independently of state recognition and even sometimes in defiance of it.

                  Of course it can. But you won’t receive and legal benefits from that marriage. I can say I’m married to 40 wives. The second I try to extract a state or federally recognized benefit from it, I’m breaking the law.

                  I knew a gay couple that got married back in the 90s. It was purely a ceremonial marriage. It was a statement about their commitment to each other.

                  However, they received no benefits from that marriage, employer, state or federal.

                  Likewise, if the state chooses to pretend that a same-sex relationship is a marriage, that doesn’t make it so.

                  I don’t know what this means. If the state declared it legal for a gay couple to be married, and the gay couple goes through the same process straight couples do, then they are eligible for the benefits. Are you talking about “the eyes of god”?

                  1. I can say I’m married to 40 wives.

                    In some states, that’s not even legal. At least if you do more than just say it and live as if you are married to more than one.

        3. Why? Why stop a tiny percentage from getting a government note. I understand and support the anti-state marriage position, but the marriage for me, but not for thee people can go jump in a lake.

        4. Eddie,

          According to Gallup, 28% of the country still doesn’t think homosexual relations should be legal at all. And until the last 5 years or so, that number was consistently between 35-45% after 1990. I’d imagine those numbers are/were significantly higher among Republicans. Lawrence v. Texas got a lot of opposition, and not all of it was from people who simply thought it wasn’t a legally sound decision.

          http://www.gallup.com/poll/165…..ights.aspx

          1. OK, but I doubt *very much* that’s what the other commenters are referring to.

            1. I don’t see how it’s not related. It’s pretty clear that the opposition to gay marriage wasn’t just about people not wanting state recognition of such relationships.

              1. So…the opponents of state recognition are impure and icky.

                1. They are if they’re not arguing for total abolition of state marriages.

                  1. Who isnt arguing for that?

                2. Seriously? That’s what you got out of my argument?

                  1. Don’t expect an honest debate Cali.

                  2. What I got out of it was an opportunity for snark, which isn’t necessarily admirable on my part, but in reaction to the fact that the other commenters were discussing state recognition and the movement against it.

                    Even in the bad old days, the great majority of sodomy prosecutions involved either (a) involuntary sodomy, (b) non-adult sodomy, (c) sodomy in public, or (d) commercialized vice.

                    While there the laws allowed prosecuting cohabiting adult gay couples who called themselves married and had sex in the privacy of their homes, that could only happen on rare occasions (though I think one occasion is too many).

                    1. And in the past couple decades, the debate was on state recognition, not bringing back the bad old days.

      3. some people fought so hard to stop 6 percent of democrats from getting married

        i’m pretty sure only about half of the gay* population even expresses a desire to “eventually” get married, and far fewer than that actually exercise that right.

        (*the LGBT acronym is lame and not even accurate)

        I know that’s probably not what you meant, and it was just phrasing, but still. “perspective matters”. While everyone wants the ability to choose, the fact is that marriage is a choice that is in general decline with a wide range of the population.

        And i imagine some even-more-pedantic than me type will come along and say, “there was never anything stopping gays from getting married; there was just a lack of state-recognition”.

        1. i’m pretty sure only about half of the gay* population even expresses a desire to “eventually” get married, and far fewer than that actually exercise that right.

          +2 lesbians on second date.

        2. And i imagine some even-more-pedantic than me type will come along and say, “there was never anything stopping gays from getting married; there was just a lack of state-recognition”.

          Somebody preempted you.

          1. There are two things you can count on here. Pedantry and hitler jokes.

            1. + fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.

              1. But enough about Eddie’s comments.

    2. Snark noted, but you know what? I can blame them all for getting all of those wrong. Getting within +/-50% on guessing all those are common sense if you have a vague idea of who lives in America.

      It’s regularly reported that 1-4% of the population is gay. Assuming ALL of them are Democrats it couldn’t possibly go past about 8%.

      Same deal for the elderly. They’re something like 15% of everyone, so they couldn’t be more than 30% of one party.

      Same deal for atheists. If you have even a vague idea that they’re a single-digit-% group, they can’t be more than 20% of a party.

      It’s not complicated to understand a normal distribution. If a guy is 60th percentile in income at 70K, it’s completely illogical to assume that a large group, even skewing rich, is more than 5% made up of people four times that rich.

      Obviously no one knows these precise facts I just googled, but surely it’s not ridiculous to at least have an order-of-magnitude understanding of them and be able to reason to a correct order-of-magnitude estimate for a subgroup.

      (Okay, enough engineer fantasies about Americans being logical.)

      1. 100% of Libertarians are rich, racist corporate executives.

        1. I wouldn’t call myself rich…

          1. I think most people don’t call themselves rich until they reach something like the 99.5th percentile in income. The lifestyle of the bottom run of the 1% is not what anyone thinks of when they think of
            “the rich”.

            1. It’s a joke about me being racist. Damn it. Do I have to spell it out!

              1. I guess I’ve gotten so used to seeing the word racist my brain just filters it out. At this point I’d be more offended if someone accused me of being rich or greedy.

                1. I really wish someone could legitimately accuse me of being “rich”. I could handle “greedy” if that came with it.

      2. (sidenote: I realize I used a “half a Republicans and half are Democrats” approximation which was silly, but I didn’t want to overthink this silly critique so I shortcutted it)

        1. but supposedly 40% allege that they are Independent. This whole Dem/Rep duopoly thing is an anachronism. someone forgot to tell the media

          1. And of course, there are lifelong independents who haven’t once failed to pull the lever for a Democrat (or Republican, as the case may be). It’s the old stated-vs-revealed.

            I don’t care if you capitalize the “I” in independent, if you’ve got a Coexist sticker on your car, if you claim to love divided government: if the great majority of your votes only go one way, you’re not much of an independent.

            1. Many independents are just people who independently choose to always vote for the same party. This is as oppose to being a loyal foot soldier to that party. The end result is no different, but it makes them feel better.

              1. I saw some research once upon a time that showed that independents voted along with whatever tribe happened to live in their neighborhood. independents living in blueland vote blue, those in redland vote red

      3. On the gay percentages…. those numbers are the ones reported by researchers. The number reported by LGBTAI advocacy groups is anywhere from 10% to 15%. They’ll even trot out the notion that 85% of men have homosexual desires. They get pretty silly with their hyperbole.

        Anyway, taking 10% and presuming that they are close to 100% identify as democrat – and that’s the party line, right? – you get 10% of the population segregating into 1/3 of the population (democrats and republicans don’t get 50% each), you get about 1/3 of democrats are LGBTAI. So it is actually more reasonable if you take them all at their word.

        Which you shouldn’t.

        1. If you really want an accurate percentage, the pollster should ask what kind of porn they watch.

    3. I can’t wait to see what happens when the alternative lifestyle LGBTQ2IBLM alphabet soup begins to grate at one another.

    4. I think that QUILTBAG is the more up-to-date/complete form, but you don’t really need the A; aces are used to their existence being ignored/denied.

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    1. I had a discussion with a dear friend (not sarcasm) who’s a dyed-in-the-wool partisan Democrat. Our conversations are a kind of exhibit A in why it’s so difficult to find common ground (which kind of plays into the topic of this blogpost).

      It’s been my direct and continued experience that you can have a discussion about the economy– as it relates to the crash of ’07/08. The Democrat will start to denouce the banks and Wall Street’s control over politicians, vis-a-vis the massive bailouts they received– and how unfair it all was.

      I, the libertarian see the glimmer of common ground, dimly visible in the distance. I turn the conversation towards TARP and the bailouts of the financial sector. The Democrat, always prepared with the canned talking points, pivots on their rhetorical dime and starts schooling me on how necessary the bailouts and TARP were and how necessary was the codification of too-big-to-fail into federal law.

      Suddenly, the common ground (whatever you thought there was) is ripped out from under you, and any discussion of moral hazard is like asking someone what the square root of some really big number is.

      1. I had a discussion with a dear friend (not sarcasm) who’s a dyed-in-the-wool partisan Democrat.

        There is no possible good ending to that.

        Just drink and make up sports limericks on the spot.

  2. For their part, Republicans think that 36 percent of Democrats are atheists or agnostics, when the actual percentage is about 9

    or 0, if we define it as “doesn’t believe in a higher power”

    1. Heh, well played.

  3. We are constantly told that America is not merely a divided nation but a nation whose divisions have split us into two big tribes, one colored red and one colored blue.

    Here’s what gets me: the division is so nearly equally split, that recounts are a routine thing. How commonly do we see splits like that with coke/pepsi, mets/yankees, etc? Is there some angle, such as urban/rural, to explain it? I mean, look back at the coleman/franken recounts, and calculate the probability that millions of votes could end up coming down to such slim margins.

    1. This is what we refer to as ‘gerrymandering’.

      1. It’s more than that, though. The popular vote for president is almost always very evenly divided.

    2. That has often struck me as remarkable too.

      I think it must be that in the two party system, the parties and candidates fine tune their positions and messages to keep things evenly divided at a national level.

      I wonder how much this has to do with the presidential election being the only national election. States are certainly not all evenly divided like that. But at the national level, it is pretty consistently so, at least when it comes time to vote for president.

      I’m not sure if a more parliamentary system would be better or not. But I think that the prominence of the president in national politics is a very bad thing.

  4. Notably lacking in this article is any mention of the role of the press [beyond Twitter] in all of this; it is not only how something is reported and the extent of bias, but what is reported that creates perceptions of polarization.

    Of course that only plays into the agenda of media outlets, as reporting any actual “news” from anything approaching an objective who what when where and why standpoint is sorely lacking.

  5. And I’m afraid I don’t really see the point in this article. Am I supposed to be fearful of political polarization? Where do you think libertarians fall on any polarization scale, Jesse? We are not moderates. In the discourse of American politics, we are going to be labelled far-right whether you like it or not. Or whether Gary Johnson likes it or not. He’s getting a one-time free pass from the media because TRUMP, but you still the hatred of libertarianism seep out (see the scorn over the Aleppo screw-up or the many articles on the dangers of libertarianism). Libertarians are far right because:
    1. Smaller government aka hate black people
    2. A belief in freedom of association aka bigotry
    3. Outside Johnson-Weld, support for GUNS

    Libertarians are not some centrist movement. It doesn’t matter how much common ground you try to find. And Republicans will loathe you and mock you as not being serious on TERRORZ and MUSLAMS.

    1. The point of the article is that just because 22 or so of us believe strongly in personal liberty, the rest of the country takes an ‘on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand’ type of approach.

      1. What percent also include on-the-gripping-hand?

        1. These masturbation euphemisms are getting a lot less abstract.

          1. Motie-Americans dont appreciate those kinds of stereotypes.

            1. They don’t see the plank in their own eye.

    2. Where do you think libertarians fall on any polarization scale, Jesse?

      Nowhere. We are among the many tribes excluded from the Red/Blue model.

      1. Ok, but that avoids the larger question posed. Is libertarianism a radical movement?

        1. In the brightly-colored, early-90s-skateboarder sense, yes. Cowabunga dudes!

          In the sense that libertarianism is the opposite impulse to an authoritarianism that increasingly seems to be positioned as the default state of government vis a vis society, probably also yes.

          1. I would think that libertarianism leans more radical, by design. In a world where massive state regulation is either cheered on or at best, shrugged off, it’s pretty radical to suggest rolling it back.

            Also, it’s been my experience that libertarianism attracts a certain type of person who tries to hold his political views consistent.

            Which I’ve been told is the hobgoblin of small penises or something.

          2. How about we rastafy libertarianism by about 10%?

              1. I chant down Babylon with every post.

                1. It is known.

    3. Plus liberals like to identify libertarianism with government failure? even if the policy, regulation, etc., were pushed by liberals and opposed by libertarians.

      1. If we selfish libertarians weren’t fucking everything up with our obstructive insistence on (negative) rights, most of those government programs wouldn’t have failed. Duh.

        1. Something about “wreckers and kulaks”…

    4. Johnson’s opposition to the terror watchlist ban puts him in the top 10% of people in the country most opposed to gun control. That’s about the % of people who oppose it according to poll after poll. That number isn’t even much different if you just look at Republicans or conservatives. A lot of people will throw their rights away and give more power to the government at all costs so long as you say the word “terrorism.”

    5. “Outside Johnson-Weld, support for GUNS”

      When are people going to stop saying this stupid shit?

      There has never – EVER – been a more pro-2nd-Amendment candidate at this level in our lifetimes. Johnson has a 100% record on guns, in policy points and actual history.

      Stop repeating stupid Trump soundbytes. Just because Gary’s VP is almost as bad as the GOP candidate wrt guns does not change the fact that Gary Johnson is the very model of what you would want from a politician on guns.

      1. There has never – EVER – been a more pro-2nd-Amendment candidate at this level in our lifetimes. Johnson has a 100% record on guns, in policy points and actual history.

        HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!!!!!!!

        You’re funny.

        1. Try to name one. Go ahead.

          Gary Johnson has, in every instance and without exception, stood on the side of the 2nd Amendment as a politician. In the ban-happy days before Heller, he vetoed EVERY bill his legislature tried to pass regulating weapons and ammunition. To this day, he refuses bans on “assault weapons”, the usurpation of due process in exercising the 2nd Amendment, and all proposed gun legislation.

          There has never been anyone at this level who can match that. If you disagree, just try to find someone. Do your best.

          1. Why don’t you just stick to your other 3 handles you stupid fucking piece of monkey shit?

    6. Far-right? What if I want to get gay-married and do heroin, all in the women’s bathroom?

  6. Contrary to the fears expressed by those worried about ideological segregation, social media actually may lessen people’s tendency to live in echo chambers.”

    I know people who have tried to set up their Facebook and Twitter accounts to act as echo chambers. They’ve either not liked it after a while or gone down the rabbit hole.

    But they did have to actively set things up that way.

    1. I always feel that social media is the place where people become the most partisan. How many democrats say to their more conservative friends faces that they think they’re racist bigots who have no place in society?

      But broadcasting it to ‘everyone and no one in particular’ on social media is rather easy.

  7. Democrats think that 44 percent of Republicans make more than $250,000 per year, when the actual percentage is 2,

    But how many Democrats make more than 250K a year???

    1. If they’re in Government, about 99%.

      1. Well, no, if you travel to any bluer-than-blue-found-in-nature-blue city, there are a fuck ton in the private sector.

    2. I don’t know, but the number must be at least greater than the number of ambassadorships available.

  8. “Noting that “some of the least polarized legislatures have a reputation for petty corruption,” he speculates that “legislators who are skimming o? the top are more likely to make bipartisan deals to keep the gravy train running smoothly.””

    I don’t think “petty” is the word I’d use for corruption in Louisiana and Rhode Island.

    Perhaps there will be more corruption if rival groups of politicians, instead of watching each other like hawks, choose instead to buddy up with each other.

    In which case, that seems to make out a good case for polarization.

  9. I’ve noticed that the “polarization” of the parties is most acute, at least in D.C., doesn’t always seem strongly attached to specific issues.

    Usually the fighting is about how each team wants all the political jobs, bribes, and loot for itself. That gets Washington politicians *much* more worked up than “issues,” which are generally things they get involved in so that voters who care about those issues will re-elect them.

    1. Thus, when they say OMG this is the most corrupt thing I’ve ever seen, what they mean is damn, I wish we’d thought of that.

      It does have the benefit of keeping the public focused on corruption, so that by highlighting the other party’s corruption, each party makes its own corruption more difficult because the other party will retaliate.

      1. For instance, the next time a Republican politician tries to destroy and cover up emails, they Democrats will go for his hide in retaliation for Hillary.

        So at least there’s an incentive to not do that blatantly-corrupt thing you just criticized the other guys for doing. At least wait a few years before doing it yourself.

  10. “legislators who are skimming o? the top are more likely to make bipartisan deals to keep the gravy train running smoothly.”

    I’m gonna remember this the next time I hear some politician assclown tout there track record of making bipartisan deals.

    1. “Bipartisanship” is two muggers waiting until after they’ve stolen your wallet to start fighting over the contents.

      1. Nice one, I’m gonna steal that.

  11. What about the non voters who think the whole process is a scam. Some of the best political analyst don’t even vote and I am sure they know a lot more about the inner workings of government than I do. That includes your own editor in chief who I highly respect.

  12. The Political Class May Be Polarized, But That Doesn’t Mean the Rest of America Is Too

    Sounds like something a libertarian would say. [eyeroll]

    1. “Eyeroll” isn’t an abstract enough euphemism.

      1. [spicy tuna roll]

        1. Now i’m simultaneously disturbed, aroused, and hungry for sushi.

  13. I just want my government to put aside their differences and make a bipartisan effort to come together and fuck off.

  14. Highly relevant

    “Most Republican voters don’t view through the world through a sharp ideological lens, especially when it comes to economic policy. If you doubt that, go find a poll measuring GOP support for protecting Medicare or raising the minimum wage. There’s no getting around this. Big government won, even on the right, and Trump is the ultimate proof.”

    1. And there’s a certain high-time preference logic to this, which is why complex societies eventually become unsustainable and collapse. Why continue to advocate for limited government when the party that ostensibly supports such a measure does little to nothing to advance that cause culturally? Save for a few half-measures at certain points, the long-term trend since 1930 has been for an ever-growing bureaucratic apparatus. Part of this is due to the simple logistical fact that a complex society has to be managed in some fashion, but the reality is that as our cultural perceptions have expanded from local/community to global awareness, the more we as a society tend to support big government solutions to solve global problems that end up affecting us locally.

      The problem is that history shows that it’s never sustainable. Complex societies eventually become so complex that they can’t maintain the means to perpetuate or increase their standard of living due to increasingly limited returns on investment. That’s something modern conservatives just don’t understand–in some ways, tight regulation is actually going to be the more conservative choice because it prevents something from growing to a point that it undermines social or economic structures that might not be equipped to handle such issues in either the short or long-term.

      1. On the other hand, tight regulation to preserve social and economic structures tends to make them more brittle. It delays the break down, but makes it more catastrophic when it comes.

  15. Just as a note, some other studies have found increasing polarization among the populace.

    http://www.people-press.org/20…..-the-study

  16. While the Clinton campaign motorcade proceeded down a lonely rural
    road in west Texas, a very aged cow that had wandered away from its
    farm pasture stepped onto the road, directly in the path of the
    oncoming vehicles. The Secret Service limo driver tried to avoid the
    aging bovine but just couldn’t stop the car in time. Unfortunately,
    the old cow was struck and killed.

    From the back seat of the limo, Hillary Clinton demanded that her
    driver go up to the nearby farmhouse and explain to the owners what
    had happened. She insisted, however, that the agent should resist any
    request from the farmer to pay for the animal, and she added, “You
    killed it, so if they demand money, it will come out of your own
    pocket!”

    Meanwhile, Hillary stayed in the car making phone calls on her
    unsecured cell phone. About an hour later the driver staggered back to
    the car with his clothes in disarray. He was holding a half-empty
    bottle of expensive wine in one hand, a huge Cuban cigar in the other,
    and was smiling happily, smeared with lipstick.

    “What happened to you?” asked Hillary.

    “Well,” the driver replied, “The farmer gave me the cigar, his wife
    gave me the wine, and their beautiful twin daughters made passionate
    love to me. I had just stepped inside the door and said, ‘I’m Hillary
    Clinton’s driver, and I’ve just killed the old cow.’ ”
    “The rest happened so fast I couldn’t stop it.

  17. Sure the lumpen middle isn’t terribly polarized – so long as SOME witches are being burned SOMEWHERE, they’re fairly content.

  18. Extra points for the Frankie reference.

    1. Objection : a point is all that you *can* score.

  19. I would have to say this paper is bullshit. Does it even pretend to be some scientific study? I dunno. I don’t feel like reading it, because it’s stupid.

    Sure, there are more independents than ever before. But if you do actually look at who makes up the Republicans and who makes up the Democrats, it’s very clearly white people vs. not white people. A Democrat hasn’t won the white vote in a Presidential election since 1964. A Republican has never won the non white vote. Ever.

    The real problem of course, is if the current demographic trends the country is on continue, we will have an effective one-party system. Hooray for democracy!

    1. Only if you assume that Latin Americans will never be considered white. I think that’s a dubious proposition.

      1. “White Latino” George Zimmerman probably agrees.

      2. Latinos are just white folks with great tans.

    2. Or people will begin to shift their primary identity.

      Many 3rd generation Hispanic voters have already done this, aligning as white. Once team R is effectively neutered, the various camps in team D will begin to see team R as less threatening. And since team R boogie man scare tactics is the main thing keeping the team D coalition together, it will be very tempting for some of these groups to peel off on their own self-interest.

      Black voters tend to be way more religious and way, way more socially conservative than the democrat leadership. Remove the “Republicans are evil racists” scare tactic and they might shift sides. 3rd and 4th generation immigrants will likely be much less attached to identity politics once they are fully integrated into their communities and no longer have even “grandma the illegal immigrant” hanging around.

      Even more likely than team D hegemony is a national team D monopoly based on identity politics with an equally entrenched team R throughout the heartland. As Team D increasingly feels emboldened by their easy national majority they continue rolling over the heartland to pander to the big-city coastal electorate. So team R becomes ever more secure in their strongholds as people grow resentful of a government that doesn’t represent their wishes.

      So ever worse divides, ever nastier attacks. Until infinity. Or until the libertarian moment.

      1. I just don’t see it happening with Republicans. There’s a stink on that word that black people and many non-Cuban/Venezuelan transplants will never go for.

        I guess if the Republicans completely fail, something else may step in. Eventually. Maybe.

    3. “A Republican has never won the non white vote. Ever.”

      Uh, this is pretty blatantly false. The Republicans consistently won the black vote before the 1930s. I know that’s a long time ago, but it wasn’t forever ago.

      1. When Democrat and Republican meant completely different things.

        1. Yes, back when Democrats ran a profit-oriented and ruthlessly pragmatic political machine, including openly selling favors and offices, and sought to divide the public by sowing racial discord and instituting systems of preferences; and Republicans were business-friendly politicians with a moderate but overstated affinity for classical liberalism and a penchant for winning wars without properly seeing the occupation through due to public disenchantment with corruption and terrorism in the occupied territories.

  20. Hey, our political class isn’t even that polarized anymore. Both of our major party nominees’ are all about expanding the size of government; they just disagree (slightly) on the breadth of the expansion.

  21. Point #4 is the result of special interests such as gays or big business posing as small business trying to over-represent their constituents.

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  23. The pronouncements by the MSM about how customized news and socials would spell the demise of the electorate has been greatly exaggerated. So why has Facebook allegedly suppressed conservative viewpoints? Don’t worry though because they “investigated” themselves and were declared innocent. Check out the link below.
    http://hubpages.com/politics/F…..in-Control

  24. Never understood why political gridlock is considered bad. It’s actually the best thing for the country. Less laws being enacted as not a majority of our representatives can agree on things. May the gridlock be indefinite…

  25. Amen, ain’t it the truth

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