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All the News About “the Center” That’s Fit to Print

The great Thomas Edsall, the New York Times columnist and professor of journalism at Columbia University, has a nice column featuring my research with Ted Carmines and Mike Ensley examining the consequences of a political system in which elected officials are divided along a single ideological dimension while the public is split across two.

He writes,

The Carmines-Ensley-Wagner analysis helps explain the roiling nature of contemporary politics, what they call “the deep-seated ideological heterogeneity” of the American electorate. The heterogeneity lying just under the surface polarization has led to two seemingly divergent developments.

The relatively narrow voting groups that fit the traditional definition of liberal and conservative are entrenched in the two-party system — conservatives strongly sharing the policy preferences of the Republican Party and liberals strongly sharing the policy preferences of the Democratic Party — and the very depth of this belief creates the gap that defines political polarization. But there is another world of disaffection aswirl here too: populists and libertarians are disconnected from both parties, often cross-pressured issue by issue, with libertarians gravitating towards the Republican Party on economics and to the Democrats on social issues, while populists are propelled in the opposite direction.

The figure that expresses the general logic behind the argument is below.

We presented the paper at the State of the Parties Conference at the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron last month. The hyperlink in the previous sentence links to all of the paper presented at the meeting. The whole conference was very interesting.

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