Is America Really That Polarized?

by William Teach | July 5, 2014 8:27 am

Yes, and no, as The Washington Post’s[1] Dan Balz points out

Forget what you’ve heard about an America divided into warring camps, living in red and blue states or congressional districts. We actually agree on lots of things.

That, at least, is the conclusion of a study [2]conducted by the Program for Public Consultation [3](PPC), whose goal is to give the public a louder voice in the policymaking process. (The study is also available on the Web site of Voice of the People.)

The group analyzed answers [4]to more than 300 survey questions taken over the past few years and dealing with public-policy choices, and it compared responses from people who live in red congressional districts or states with those who live in blue districts or states.

The analysis found overwhelming convergence in attitudes, regardless of the makeup of the state or district where people live. People in red districts or states and those in blue districts or states truly disagreed with each other just 4 percent of the time.

Of course, one of the problems with the results could be who is asked within the red/blue states. The Party/ideological position breakdown is not provided. The results could also go to the questions asked[5]. Regardless, the conclusion to the gridlock in Congress is

(Stephen) Kull (director of PPC) doesn’t dispute the fact that Congress is polarized along partisan lines. But he said it’s wrong to blame that on a polarized population. Members of Congress, he said, are responding not to their constituents but to the power (and money) of special interests that have their own, partisan agendas.

A couple points. First, gridlock is what the Constitution intended. It was set up to be a slow, ponderous process for passing laws at a national level. The States were supposed to be the primary government entities. Second, if the study is to be believed, we may agree on ends, but we do not necessarily agree on means. Take investing in renewable energy. There is a red/blue split of 59.1/63.5 believing that it is important. But, how do we get there? I’m all for it. What I am not for is pissing away taxpayer money in order to repay campaign contributors, along with dumping money into companies that will go nowhere. I’ve also mentioned I think research and development for individual buildings, rather than the these giants solar/wind farms would be better. Warmists claim they love renewables, yet, when construction occurs, they want it stopped. They say they love hydro-thermal. Yet, they want existing dams torn down.

There is a point, though, about special interests and money, and power, in Government. Not just Congress, but the presidency, as well. A strong, centralized government doesn’t always listen to We The People. They may pretend to, but over time they focus more on the big monied interests. Hence the reason for term limits and repealing the 17th Amendment. Shift power from the federal government and back to the States, where it belongs.

But wait. There is another view, offered by Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University who has written extensively on the topic of polarization.

Abramowitz prefers to look at the issue through the differences between Republicans and Democrats in red states, blue states and purple states, not just by comparing the districts. He also argues that the differences on a number of basic issues that are at the heart of the national political debate underscore the degree to which the country is divided.

At the end of the day, why is this a Bad Thing? People have different opinions. Americans on the right want to debate and help those on the left understand why they are wrong. Those on the Left want to shut down debate, tell those on the right to shut up, and even pass laws restricting certain thoughts. They would prefer a more homogenized version of political thought, where everyone believes the same thing. In some cases, are forced to believe the same thing.

There is a fundamental difference between those who believe in low taxation, a weak central government, adhering to the Constitution, and freedom/liberty, as opposed to those who believe in mooching, a domineering central government, high taxes (for Other People), thought crimes, and living by the fruits of other people’s labor.

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove[6]. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach[7].

  1. The Washington Post’s:
  2. study :
  3. Program for Public Consultation :
  4. analyzed answers :
  5. questions asked:
  6. Pirate’s Cove:
  7. @WilliamTeach:

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