Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Dividing America: Evidence #3

Another alarming trend in American society is the increasing political polarization of the body politic. Not only are Democrats swinging further to the left of center, so too are Republicans swinging more to the right of that same center; the center, where political compromise is possible.

As the chart below demonstrates, in the past 20 years Americans have increasingly become further and further estranged politically (Pew Research Center). In 1994 64% of Republicans were more conservative (to the political right) than the median Democrat and 70% of Democrats were more liberal (to the political left) than the median Republican. But in the intervening two decades that divide has become even greater. Now 92-94% of Republicans and Democrats are distanced from their median counterpart in the opposite party. These are astounding numbers!

Republicans Shift to the Right, Democrats to the Left

What this means is that 1) there is becoming less ground for political compromise, as we see today in Congress where obstructionism has become the norm; and 2) members of the two parties are increasingly hostile to the other ("alien tribes" -- see here).

Therefore it is not a surprise that as the two traditional parties become increasingly polarized, the middle -- members of both parties who might very well vote for candidates of the opposing party -- are becoming alienated from either party and choose to become identified as Independents. As a case in point, according to a Gallup poll published in 2014 the number of Americans who now identify as independents is 43% -- a historical record. 

U.S. Party Identification, Yearly Averages, 1988-2014

Why is this significant? First, it goes to demonstrate how a large number of Americans no longer believe that either traditional party -- for that matter, any minority parties -- represent their values. Second, normally Independents are not permitted to vote in primary elections, diminishing their voice in the political process. Registered Independents recognize this, yet still choose to remain unaffiliated.

These are interesting times! Americans are increasingly dividing themselves into two distinctive groups, which not only share fewer and fewer common values, but question the validity of the other. And our study is still not complete. Stay tuned for more!


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Emphatic language can be couched in kind words. Let's all be adults here and use our words constructively.