Monday, July 04, 2011

America Is Far More Discerning Than Color-Coding Suggests

The out-of-date labels thrown about by nearly all politicians pre-date my lifetime and unfortunately they are still the ones predominantly used by the news media.

The categorization of Americans according to values, political beliefs and political party affiliation has been re-sorted by the Pew Research Center five different times in just the last 14 years using scientific surveys.Capture

Results unveiled several weeks ago reflect just how much has changed since 2005.  For non-readers or those required to spoon-feed them, here is a great four and a half minute video.

Below are eight take-aways and below that five potential positives were the news media to adopt this much improved typology:


  • The good news is that only 10% are “bystanders” but that becomes more disturbing when coupled with another 11% of Independents who are disaffected.  Alarmingly 41% of those “disaffected” and 40% of “bystanders” are in the South.


  • Independents such as me are termed “post-moderns.”  Collectively post-moderns are moderate but center-left on social issues and make up 13% of Americans (14% of voters.)  Another group of Independents are “Libertarians” and make up 9% of Americans.


  • “Staunch conservatives” are Republican Tea Partiers and make up 9% of Americans and 11% of voters.  They are outweighed in numbers if not vociferousness by the 14% of the general public including 16% of voters who are “solid liberals” of the Democratic Party.


  • “Main street” Republicans are also conservative but less staunchly and less consistently and they make up 11% of Americans including 14% of voters.  Moderates appear to have vanished from that party, moving more Independent, as the lines have blurred between economic, social and pro-business conservatives.


  • Democrats, while more of the population than Republicans, are far more pluralistic.  In addition to “solid liberals,” 10% of Americans including 9% of voters are “new coalition” Democrats and another 13% of the general public including 15% of voters who are “hard-pressed” Democrats.


  • Revealing how far right most legislators went this past year is the finding that the two Republican groups of conservatives are divided when it comes to opinions about business and the environment.


  • Conservatives and Libertarians along with liberals and all three groups of Independents are predominantly white while “new coalition” and “hard-pressed” Democrats are more diverse.


  • “Post-modern” Independents tend to be younger, conservatives much older.  Conservatives have morphed into a solid bloc giving a misperception much larger than their numbers.

If the news media had the means and diligence to break elected officials down into these groups, rather than just Republican or Democrat or conservative and liberal, I can see at least five positive effects:

  • Revealing the small base of those demanding lock-step allegiance might engender more bipartisanship and greatly reduce grid-lock.


  • It would be far more useful to voters and inform better decisions at the ballot-box.


  • It might re-engage “disaffected” Independents and “bystanders.”


  • It would moderate the influence of lobbyists and better reveal the outsized influence of campaign contributions.


  • It would better inform “sound-bites” and provide a better weighting of those trying to out shout or demonize other groups.

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