Pew Surveys Political Polarization
Today, the Pew Research for the People and the Press released a new study on political polarization within the American electorate. Its survey was massive: Pew polled 10,000 adults nationwide on a wide swath of questions. And because the center has asked similar questions since 1994, the study out today provides a comprehensive view of just how much American partisan behavior and ideological belief has changed over the last twenty years.
Political analysts will make much hay about the survey’s top-line findings that the American electorate is becoming increasingly drawn to either political pole and that partisan identifications among the most politically active are becoming increasingly intense. As CQ’s recent vote studies attest (pay wall, sorry), these trends clearly bear out in the people being elected to Congress. But digging deeper into the report, there’s a wealth of detail worth pondering.
- There’s an echo chamber developing not only in voting, but in all political engagement. The most ideologically-extreme Americans are also the most likely to call an elected official by a wide, wide margin.
- Despite these higher participation rates, it’s important to remember that Pew found that only 21 percent of the electorate identifies as consistently liberal or conservative in their political views. When political participation across ideological gradations is considered as a share of the population, only 35 percent of those who contacted their elected official(s) during the past two years were consistently conservative or liberal.
- Only 4 percent of those who Pew labels “consistently conservative” would choose a city if they could live anywhere in the country. Two in five would chose a rural area. About 46 percent of “consistently liberal” people would live in a city.
- Fifty seven percent of conservatives said they prefer to live in communities where many people shared their religious faith. Only 17 percent of liberals said the same. Three-quarters of liberals, meanwhile, said it was important to live in a racial or ethnically-diverse community. Fewer than one in six conservatives shared that view. Clearly, the politically-driven changes in the land captured in The Big Sort are not abating.
- The more liberal respondents were, the more likely they were to accept political compromise.