Voters in red states and blue states virtually the same on the issues, study shows

Jun 08, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Take a random person from a so-called “red state,” and the odds are nearly 50/50 that he or she would actually be more liberal on political issues than a random resident of a “blue state.”

More specifically, the chances of any one red state citizen scoring more liberal than a blue state citizen are 46 percent on economic issues and 51 percent on social issues.

The research, conducted by political scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Brigham Young University, paints an entirely different picture of American politics than the popular narrative of a polarized society.

“Far from being from two separate planets, red and blue state citizens seem to inhabit the same neighborhood,” wrote BYU’s Jeremy Pope and Penn’s Matthew Levendusky.

Casting party labels aside, the researchers instead examined data that simply showed how people felt about the issues. The next step was to measure how much common ground is shared by voters from so-called red and blue states.

The premise of polarization didn’t hold up even when the analysis was limited to states considered to be at the extremes of the conservative-liberal scale. Take Utah and New York, for example. The researchers calculate that 77 percent of in those two states occupy common ground when it comes to social policy, and 69 percent shared common ground on economic issues.

“Utah is more conservative than it’s not, but the number of liberals is substantial,” Pope said. “The overall picture is more complicated. There are lots of conservatives in New York. You can find a similar pattern in any pair of states.”

So where does the perception of a polarized political landscape come from? Certainly the media’s penchant for telling “both sides” of the story contributes. Other political scientists have documented that the primary election process favors candidates that are not centrists.

But the biggest take-away from this study is that comparing one state’s average voter to another’s just doesn’t tell the whole story.

“It doesn’t make very much sense to look at the ‘average voter’ and believe you have a sense of everything,” Pope said.

The study will appear in the new issue ofPublic Opinion Quarterly.

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User comments : 17

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Skeptic_Heretic
4.6 / 5 (9) Jun 08, 2011
More evidence that it's a loud minority that forwards ridiculous ideas.
3432682
2 / 5 (11) Jun 08, 2011
Although the difference among voters between states might be small, the difference between conservative and liberal is enormous. The overwhelming numbers of likely American voters (reported by Rasmussen Reports) support the conservative side of issues. The average issue shows a 69-31% split in favor of the conservative side, controlling out the average 15% expressing "Not sure".
The most out-of-touch poltically are the "political class" defined by Rasmussen. These are the folks who believe that the masterminds in DC have the answer to all of life's mysteries, and are not shy about imposing their will on the nation, whether we want it or not. Recent unpopular actions on bailouts, economic stimulus, cap and trade, health care takeover, and additional financial regulation are the most prominent examples. Damn the voters, full speed ahead. The good news is that the political class voters are a tiny minority. The bad news is they dominate the media, government, and education.
Thrasymachus
3.8 / 5 (10) Jun 08, 2011
Most voters identify themselves as conservatives, it's true. But ask them about the policies and programs they prefer and they overwhelmingly support a liberal platform, with at best tepid support for conservative policies.
pauljpease
4.5 / 5 (8) Jun 08, 2011
Most voters identify themselves as conservatives, it's true. But ask them about the policies and programs they prefer and they overwhelmingly support a liberal platform, with at best tepid support for conservative policies.


I definitely agree with that, and disagree with 3432682. For example, a clear majority of Americans wanted a single-payer health care system but that option wasn't even put on the table! Why? No idea, think it has something to do with what I call "taboo" psychology. If you can make an idea taboo, you can remove anything labeled with that idea from the table before debate even begins. Because socialization has been taboo for a few decades now, and single-payer is clearly a socialized system, it isn't even possible for it to be discussed. And thus democracy fails, because once certain ideas are removed from the debate, we are no longer free to choose the best answer, only the best out of the the few options we're presented with. We need "none of the above".
ricarguy
2 / 5 (8) Jun 08, 2011
Most voters identify themselves as conservatives, it's true. But ask them about the policies and programs they prefer and they overwhelmingly support a liberal platform, with at best tepid support for conservative policies.


Yes I agree, but to a point. Everyone would like to have many of the trappings of a liberal platform, until they are asked to pay for it. It's great as long as they themselves have no financial responsibility for the policies.

That's why it is so popular to "tax the rich", "tax the corporations", etc. What we have done is tax our children and grandchildren. Unlike the "generation gap" in America in the late 60's and early 70's, to whom more was given than to any generation in history, the next generational rebellion will be justified.
ricarguy
1.8 / 5 (10) Jun 08, 2011
If there is hope for America, the next election campaign is this:

WHAT ARE WE DOING TO OUR CHILDREN?

www.usdebtclock.org

Really, why bog it down with stupid politics?
ShotmanMaslo
2.6 / 5 (5) Jun 09, 2011
This is why the best type of democracy would be voting on actual issues, not politicians. With the internet, such alternative forms of government may be now possible to implement in reality. Left-right is an ad-hoc and quite artificial divide, barely representing the true political opinions of average citizen. Two party dictatorship is a more accurate term.. :p
Objectivist
4.2 / 5 (5) Jun 09, 2011
ShotmanMaslo, politics require planning. Have you ever heard the phrase: "a camel is a horse designed by committee?" Such populism would only lead to a world full of camels.
I'm afraid you can't fix democracy. It is already as good as it gets. There is no absolute when it comes to governing. That's why we should keep the government as minimal as possible, so that people can directly influence their lives, instead of directly influence the lives of everybody, and vice versa.
ricarguy
2.5 / 5 (6) Jun 09, 2011
Democracy?
The U.S. is NOT a democracy. It is a republic, although it has been changed to become closer to a democracy than it was envisioned in its founding. Democracy is one man, one vote; it does not work and never has.

E.g. I propose we confiscate all of ShotmanMaslo's assets and divide them up evenly among the rest of us on this blog thread. All in favor, say "Aye"....
ShotmanMaslo
2 / 5 (3) Jun 09, 2011
I agree with you two, I am not a blinded fan of democracy myself, it is nothing more than dictatorship of majority, after all.
Objectivist
5 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2011
ShotmanMaslo, you got me all wrong. Democracy is the best method we have. All I'm saying is that it doesn't need fixing because it cannot be perfect. Any "fixing" you do will end up hurting it even more.

ricarguy, representative democracy != direct democracy != republic
ShotmanMaslo
1 / 5 (1) Jun 10, 2011
I think it can be made better by including technocratic/sofocratic elements, and also by making it more direct. Austria and Switzerland seems to be doing just fine with more direct form of democracy, no "camel" resulted. The only issues where it fails are those which require science, or more than common knowledge (nuclear energy etc..) to optimally decide. Thats why it should also include technocratic elements.

There is always one most optimal possible solution to a given problem, so saying "there is no absolute when it comes to governing" is somehow void.
Objectivist
1 / 5 (2) Jun 10, 2011
Ok, we'll see if you will change your mind in the future. It's quite clear you're young. You think you can change the world, and you favor dictating peoples lives because you consider yourself wise enough to know what's good for them. I'm not at all being condescending. I used to be exactly the same. Cheers.
Recovering_Human
5 / 5 (1) Jun 11, 2011
Three words: divide and conquer.
FrankHerbert
1.1 / 5 (53) Jun 12, 2011
The whole "the US isn't a Democracy, it's a Republic" argument is kind of misleading. The words have a different meaning today than they did to the founders. To them democracy meant something more like "mob rule" than "one man, one vote." Republic simply meant "rule by law" or a system where the sovereign is the people, not a monarch. Basically republic just means "not a monarchy, rule by law, and some separation of powers." It's a fairly vague concept. They themselves didn't totally agree on the definitions either.

So yes, using modern definitions, the US is both a republic and a democracy. We have rule by law and separation of powers, which makes us a republic, and we have representative elections, which makes us a democracy. Anything else is word games.
TheQuietMan
4.7 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2011
From where I'm sitting it seems we have transitioned into a corporate state more than anything else. The power big corporations and banks exert on out system is all out of whack with that of the public. I don't see it changing much either, as it is firmly self perpetuating.
FrankHerbert
0.7 / 5 (48) Jun 13, 2011
I tend to agree TheQuietMan, and the scary thing is if you are right, the facade of Republic will be maintained long after people stop practicing its tenets. Remember, according to his contemporaries (and for quite some time after), Augustus didn't destroy the Republic, he saved it. Historians have a different perspective.