Hard-Core, Hardheaded, Hateful Partisans Are Crowding Out Our Politics

The “growing minority” of strict liberals and conservatives is overwhelming the sensible center.

National Journal
Ron Fournier
Add to Briefcase
Ron Fournier
June 12, 2014, 7:15 a.m.

The sens­ible ma­jor­ity is shrink­ing. Ac­cord­ing to an im­port­ant new study by the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, a “grow­ing minor­ity” of par­tis­an Amer­ic­ans doesn’t be­lieve in com­prom­ise, and sus­pects the op­pos­ing party is a threat to the na­tion’s well-be­ing.

The find­ings beg the chick­en-or-the-egg ques­tion. Is an in­creas­ingly po­lar­ized elect­or­ate driv­ing polit­ic­al lead­ers to the ex­tremes? Or is poor lead­er­ship and hy­per­bol­ic rhet­or­ic driv­ing voters to ideo­lo­gic­al corners? The an­swer is most likely “both,” with a wide vari­ety of com­plic­at­ing factors — spe­cific­ally, the so­cial anxi­ety that ac­com­pan­ies eras of eco­nom­ic and tech­no­lo­gic­al dis­rup­tion. Key find­ings:

Hard-core par­tis­ans are on the rise. The per­cent­age of Amer­ic­ans who ex­press con­sist­ently con­ser­vat­ive and con­sist­ently lib­er­al opin­ions has doubled over the past two dec­ades, from 10 per­cent to 21 per­cent. Al­most four-in-10 polit­ic­ally en­gaged Demo­crats are con­sist­ent lib­er­als, up from just 8 per­cent in 1994. A third of Re­pub­lic­ans are con­sist­ently con­ser­vat­ive, up from just 10 per­cent a dec­ade ago.

They’re also pulling apart. Ideo­lo­gic­al over­lap between the two parties has shrunk. Ninety-two per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans are to the right of the me­di­an Demo­crat, and 94 per­cent of Demo­crats are to the left of the me­di­an Re­pub­lic­an. Two dec­ades ago, just 64 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans were to the right of the me­di­an Demo­crat and only 70 per­cent of Demo­crats were to the left of the me­di­an Re­pub­lic­an.

And they hate each oth­er. The per­cent­age of Re­pub­lic­ans who hold a highly neg­at­ive view of Demo­crats is 43 per­cent, up from 17 per­cent in 1994. Nearly four-in-10 Demo­crats loathe Re­pub­lic­ans, up from 16 per­cent two dec­ades ago.

Many con­sider the oth­er side to be an ex­ist­en­tial threat. More than one-third of Re­pub­lic­ans see the Demo­crat­ic Party as a threat to the na­tion’s well-be­ing, while 27 per­cent of Demo­crats think the same of the GOP.

They run in packs. People with hard-line ideo­lo­gic­al po­s­i­tions are more likely than oth­ers to say that most of their close friends share their view. Pew says par­tis­ans are es­sen­tially liv­ing in “ideo­lo­gic­al silos.”

And they don’t com­prom­ise. A ma­jor­ity of con­sist­ent con­ser­vat­ives (57 per­cent) say the ideal agree­ment between Obama and GOP law­makers is one in which Re­pub­lic­ans hold out for more of their goals. Con­sist­ent lib­er­als are just as stub­born, if not more so: Their pre­ferred terms (favored by 62 per­cent) end up closer to Obama’s po­s­i­tion than the GOP. “At a time of in­creas­ing grid­lock on Cap­it­ol Hill, many on both the left and the right think the out­come of polit­ic­al ne­go­ti­ations between (Pres­id­ent) Obama and Re­pub­lic­an lead­ers should be that their side gets more of what it wants,” reads the re­port.

They’re crowding out the rest of us. The hardened par­tis­an views don’t re­flect the ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans, ac­cord­ing to Pew.

These sen­ti­ments are not shared by all — or even most — Amer­ic­ans. The ma­jor­ity do not have uni­formly con­ser­vat­ive or lib­er­al views. Most do not see either party as a threat to the na­tion. And more be­lieve their rep­res­ent­at­ives in gov­ern­ment should meet halfway to re­solve con­ten­tious dis­putes rather than hold out for more of what they want.

Yet many of those in the cen­ter re­main on the edges of the polit­ic­al play­ing field, re­l­at­ively dis­tant and dis­en­gaged, while the most ideo­lo­gic­ally ori­ented and polit­ic­ally rancor­ous Amer­ic­ans make their voices heard through great­er par­ti­cip­a­tion in every stage of the polit­ic­al pro­cess.

And the middle is shrink­ing. Rat­ing polit­ic­al val­ues on a scale of 1 to 10, Pew found that since 1994 the num­ber of people in the cen­ter has shrunk from 49 per­cent of the pub­lic (in 1994 and 2004) to just 39 per­cent today. That num­ber in­cludes roughly equal num­bers of lib­er­al and con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tions.

What We're Following See More »
ANOTHER GOP MODERATE TO HER SIDE
John Warner to Endorse Clinton
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will score another high-powered Republican endorsement on Wednesday, according to a campaign aide: retired senator John Warner of Virginia, a popular GOP maverick with renowned military credentials."

Source:
AUTHORITY OF EPA IN QUESTION
Appeals Court Hears Clean Power Plant Case
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday "heard several hours of oral arguments" over the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan rules. The 10-judge panel "focused much of their questioning on whether the EPA had overstepped its legal authority by seeking to broadly compel this shift away from coal, a move the EPA calls the Best System of Emission Reduction, or BSER. The states and companies suing the EPA argue the agency doesn’t have the authority to regulate anything outside of a power plant itself."

Source:
$28 MILLION THIS WEEK
Here Come the Ad Buys
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Spending by super PACs tied to Donald Trump friends such as Ben Carson and banker Andy Beal will help make this week the general election's most expensive yet. Republicans and Democrats will spend almost $28 million on radio and television this week, according to advertising records, as Trump substantially increases his advertising buy for the final stretch. He's spending $6.4 million in nine states, part of what aides have said will be a $100 million television campaign through Election Day."

Source:
UNLIKELY TO GET A VOTE, LIKELY TO ANGER GOP SENATORS
Obama Nominates Ambassador to Cuba
6 hours ago
THE LATEST
GOP REFUSED VOTE ON FCC COMMISIONER
Reid Blocks Tech Bill Over “Broken Promise”
6 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Monday night's debate may have inspired some in Congress, as Senate Minority Leader has decided to take a stand of his own. Reid is declining to allow a vote on a "bipartisan bill that would bolster U.S. spectrum availability and the deployment of wireless broadband." Why? Because of a "broken promise" made a year ago by Republicans, who have refused to vote on confirmation for a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission to a second term. Harry Reid then took it a step further, invoking another confirmation vote still outstanding, that of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Source:
×