Political Polarization and Growing Ideological Consistency

What’s driving this? There are probably many things, but some of this divide is created by reactionaries – people who can’t deal with the rapid rate of accelerating change in the modern world. They exist in both parties, but the GOP reactionaries in the Tea Party are in the process of tearing down the basic structure of their political constituencies to fight modernity in my opinion. This is also why sovereign citizen groups and anti government militia forces are on the rise and why all of our basic institutions are under concerted attack.

Interactive graph: use header tabs and year drop downs to see the shifts as measured by affiliations and political activity, click the animate header to automatically page through years.

The phenomenon doesn’t just belong to the Tea Party however – if you look at the graphs at PEW you see that both sides have shifted into hardened stances further left and right than in the past. Maybe one side of the graph is in reaction to the other’s sudden shift (use the drop down to view these shifts,) but if we are to go forward we can’t continue to centrifuge ourselves apart very much longer.

The ideological consolidation nationwide has happened on both the left and the right of the political spectrum, but the long-term shift among Democrats stands out as particularly noteworthy. The share of Democrats who are liberal on all or most value dimensions has nearly doubled from just 30% in 1994 to 56% today. The share who are consistently liberal has quadrupled from just 5% to 23% over the past 20 years.

If you view the graph objectively without ideological blinders on, you can see that the whole country was moving the center leftwards with the right somewhat accommodating that shift all the way up until 2004 – then you get a fast reactionary bounce, and a hard one as Toomey’s Great RINO hunt started right after Bush II got elected to second term.

How do we get out of this condition? Well both sides have to stop being ideologically lazy. If you want to get the other side to shift, you have to convince them, not condemn them. You have to give them reasons to move, and the most convincing reasons are almost always fiscal. It’s time to put aside the fairy tales and come up with concrete policies that will help our diminishing middle and lower classes. IF you can do that then you gain the “Big Mo” like the left had up until 2004 — just dig in your heels more and you just get stuck — like we are now.

suggestion: compare animating “overall” “politically active” animation to “overall general population”.

Main PEW RESEARCH Article, more graphs and information at the link below:

A decade ago, the public was less ideologically consistent than it is today. In 2004, only about one-in-ten Americans were uniformly liberal or conservative across most values. Today, the share who are ideologically consistent has doubled: 21% express either consistently liberal or conservative opinions across a range of issues – the size and scope of government, the environment, foreign policy and many others.

The new survey finds that as ideological consistency has become more common, it has become increasingly aligned with partisanship. Looking at 10 political values questions tracked since 1994, more Democrats now give uniformly liberal responses, and more Republicans give uniformly conservative responses than at any point in the last 20 years

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