We the Polarized
October 10, 2018 10:49 AM   Subscribe

The Hidden Tribes of America - Social scientists and researchers from YouGov, in conjunction with the More in Common initiative, researched the current state of civic life in the United States. Among their major findings:
  • 87% of Americans: "most divided our country has been in my lifetime"
  • 70% frustrated by how "both sides" handled Kavanaugh nomination
  • But 77% say that "the differences between Americans are not so big that we cannot come together"
And "[they] uncovered a different story, one that probes underneath the issues that polarize Americans, and finds seven groups that are defined by their core beliefs, rather than by their political opinions, race, class or gender." The hope is by calling out and understanding the polarization (and tribalism that underlies it), we can fix it and come together.

The initial research results were released as a 160 page PDF, Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape. There's also a quiz, to see which tribe fits one best.

From the press release: Middle America calls for an end to escalating us-versus-them polarization, new study finds English
The study finds seven 'tribes' with distinctive beliefs, psychology and levels of engagement:
  • Progressive Activists (8% of the US population)
  • Traditional Liberals (11%)
  • Passive Liberals (15%)
  • Politically Disengaged (26%)
  • Moderates (15%)
  • Traditional Conservatives (19%)
  • Devoted Conservatives (6%)
The views of Progressive Activists and Devoted Conservatives are starkly polarized, and on several key issues their views differ dramatically from the majority of Americans. They are more ideologically dogmatic, more hostile towards the other side, and more active in elections and on social media. Although they comprise just 14% of the population, their voices dominate public debate in the digital age.

But a majority of Americans belong to one of the middle groups, who do not identify with the unequivocal views of Progressive Activists or Devoted Conservatives. For example, 82% of Americans believe that the United States still has a serious problem with racism, but 80% also believe that political correctness has become a problem.

"Social media and angry pundits are distorting the national debate," said [researcher Tim Dixon]. "The public is constantly shown cartoon character versions of the other side's views. Most Americans – including both liberals and conservatives – are actually more reasonable than people on the other side are made to think."

The study identifies an 'Exhausted Majority' comprising 67% of the American population (Traditional Liberals, Passive Liberals, Politically Disengaged and Moderates). While they hold a range of political views (and are not all centrists) they are united in three ways:
  • They dislike tribalism and are fed up with America's polarization.
  • They feel that today's political debates do not speak to them or their priorities.
  • They have a more flexible and less ideological approach to issues than the partisans of the left and right, and feel compromise is necessary in politics, as in other areas of life.
From the Atlantic on the study: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture - Masha Younk
...
The study was written by More in Common, an organization founded in memory of Jo Cox, the British MP who was murdered in the run-up to the Brexit referendum. It is based on a nationally representative poll with 8,000 respondents, 30 one-hour interviews, and six focus groups conducted from December 2017 to September 2018.

It turns out that while progressive activists tend to think that only hate speech is a problem, and devoted conservatives tend to think that only political correctness is a problem, a clear majority of all Americans holds a more nuanced point of view: They abhor racism. But they don’t think that the way we now practice political correctness represents a promising way to overcome racial injustice.

The study should also make progressives more self-critical about the way in which speech norms serve as a marker of social distinction. I don’t doubt the sincerity of the affluent and highly educated people who call others out if they use “problematic” terms or perpetrate an act of “cultural appropriation.” But what the vast majority of Americans seem to see—at least according to the research conducted for “Hidden Tribes”—is not so much genuine concern for social justice as the preening display of cultural superiority.

For the millions upon millions of Americans of all ages and all races who do not follow politics with rapt attention, and who are much more worried about paying their rent than about debating the prom dress worn by a teenager in Utah, contemporary callout culture merely looks like an excuse to mock the values or ignorance of others. As one 57- year-old woman in Mississippi fretted:
The way you have to term everything just right. And if you don’t term it right you discriminate them. It’s like everybody is going to be in the know of what people call themselves now and some of us just don’t know. But if you don’t know then there is something seriously wrong with you
posted by ZeusHumms (102 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
The weird thing about these perceptions of division is that the 1960s were objectively worse in the United States. Massive demonstrations, cities burning, systematic church burnings that dwarf Dylann Roof's terrible murders, a a white nationalist presidential campaign that saw the man who dropped the atom bombs on an Asian country run as vice presidential candidate, and a war in Indochina that would see US forces kill at least a million people before it was finished.

The one common theme between the 60s and our era is of course the Baby Boomers and the Me Generation. This is their legacy.
posted by JamesBay at 10:54 AM on October 10 [12 favorites]


I really appreciate this summary, and I'm looking forward to reading the links. I'm looking forward to some kind of empirical evidence that I have reason to hope for my children and grandchildren, and their children.

Favorited for "yes, I'm exhausted, and yes I'd like to believe that most of us fall somewhere in the middle, and yes most of us are generally fairly decent people."

Thanks for posting.
posted by ZakDaddy at 10:59 AM on October 10 [3 favorites]


The report was conducted by More in Common, a new international initiative to build societies and communities that are stronger, more united, and more resilient to the increasing threats of polarization and social division

So, just so I'm clear, they started with the idea of "People need to stop being so divisive, the truth (and silent majority) is really in the middle, where we are!", they crafted surveys to highlight this idea, and when they got the data back... they found exactly what they were looking for?

I'm not entirely sure what the "mutually agreeable midpoint" is between the issues as they present them:
• "Sexual Harassment is commonplace" vs. "Too many ordinary behaviors are labelled as sexual harassment"
• "Many people don't take discrimination against Muslims seriously enough" vs. "Many people are too sensitive to how Muslims are treated"
• "Many white people today don't recognize the real advantages they have" vs. "White people don't have any real advantages over others"
• "Immigration helps sectors of our economy be more successful & competitive" vs. "Immigration costs the welfare system and uses resources that could be spent on Americans"
posted by CrystalDave at 11:00 AM on October 10 [110 favorites]


All I see here is an attempt to diminish any cohesive Left by reducing it to a tiny wad of "Progressive Activists," and to ignore a blatantly obvious, ascendant authoritarian Right through artificial categorization. "Moderates," for example, barely exist in real life. "Traditional Conservatives" and "Devoted Conservatives" combined at 25% when Trump's approval permanently hovers around 40% is absolutely laughable. It implies that all "Moderates" are Trump supporters. What a fantastic way to normalize fascism.

Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture

Oh, OK, it's the SJWs that are the problem. Good lord.
posted by Rust Moranis at 11:03 AM on October 10 [109 favorites]


I get so frustrated by the terms and derision of "PC Culture." It depends GREATLY what someone means with that. If someone decides to use racial or sexual orientation epithets, for example, I will think you are not merely someone who "doesn't know." It also depends greatly on how someone is called out. Yes, sometimes people get jumped on who are using a wrong term. But there are PLENTY of Americans who take great umbrage to being corrected on ANYTHING, including something as simple as "don't call people things they don't want to be called - why? Cause that's the only polite way to be."
posted by agregoli at 11:04 AM on October 10 [24 favorites]


First off, allow me to just say fuck "tribalism". Almost every time I see it in a political context, it's just an excuse to avoid consideration of the actual points being made,usually by the disenfranchised. If we are polarized today, it's because the people who have historically been ground underfoot are finally saying "Enough."

Second, whenever I read an article trying to be "critical" of political correctness, like the piece by Mounk (who, let's remember, recently showed his ass with his support for a clearly ideological attack on journals focusing on fields like gender studies), I mentally replace "political correctness" with "treating people with decency" (which is what the movement is about.) I find that the resulting text tends to reveal much about the writer.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:07 AM on October 10 [57 favorites]


I don't think it's "PC culture" people hate. They hate call-out, pile-on culture.

It's one thing for Grandma to have to tolerate (and maybe even learn from!) her grandchildren saying, "Meemaw, you can't call Mr. Robinson 'colored' anymore!" It's another thing altogether to worry if you might be the next viral takedown for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

I think a lot of us dislike that, even on the left; it's gotten pretty vicious out there, and it's frightening to think that you could be an instant celebrity without even trying. For example, the "himtoo" mom did poorly by her son, but certainly didn't deserve the attention or backlash that came her way.
posted by explosion at 11:10 AM on October 10 [47 favorites]


This piece by Peter Beinart points out why the argument of tribalism is wrong and misleading:
Describing Democrats and Republicans as warring tribes has become a political cliché, but it’s wrong. If tribal implies unthinking or inherited group loyalty, then Democrats and Republicans were actually more tribal in the mid-20th century. Back then, when being a Democrat or a Republican signified less about your view of the world, party identity was more a function of regional or ancestral ties. Whether or not they supported civil rights or higher taxes or the Korean War, Irish Catholics from Boston were mostly Democrats; Presbyterians from Kansas were mostly Republicans. Today, party identity is more a function of what you believe. The parties are so bitterly polarized not because they’ve become more tribal but because they’ve become more ideological.

But for Brooks, depicting the supporters of Kavanaugh and Ford as tribes is useful because it doesn’t only suggest moral equivalence, it also implies an equivalence of power. The “tribalization” of American politics, Brooks argues, “leads to an epidemic of bigotry. Bigotry involves creating a stereotype about a disfavored group and then applying that stereotype to an individual you’ve never met. It was bigotry against Jews that got Alfred Dreyfus convicted in 1894. It was bigotry against young black males that got the Central Park Five convicted in 1990. It was bigotry against preppy lacrosse players that led to the bogus Duke lacrosse scandal.”

This is misleading. There is no equivalence between the “bigotry” faced by preppy lacrosse players and that faced by black males. There’s no equivalence, because preppy lacrosse players, in general, enjoy far more privilege and power and thus, the stereotypes people hold of them don’t generally land them in jail or dead. Similarly, there is no equivalence between the “bigotry” faced by men accused of sexual assault and the “bigotry” faced by women who suffer it. There’s no equivalence, because men wield far more power. If you don’t think that matters, try imagining Kavanaugh getting confirmed by a Senate composed of 79 women.

The struggle over Kavanaugh was, at its core, a struggle between people who want gender relations to change and people who want them to remain the same. And throughout American history, whenever oppressed groups and their supporters have agitated for change, respectable moderates have warned that they were fomenting incivility and division.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:15 AM on October 10 [58 favorites]


[One comment deleted. If we're going to have this thread, it needs to not instantly become a place where we interpret other Mefites in the worst possible light.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:15 AM on October 10 [16 favorites]


eponyposttitlesterycal?
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:16 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


My last class in college was a political science class. That’s not an appeal to authority, but I can say that we read dozens of articles and chapters about how politics today are far more sharply polarized than at any other time in history. I think that’s a widely accepted idea. Polarization is totally driven by the right, but it affects everyone, including people on the left; politics is now as much about identity as policy, if not more so. One study (I can probably still find the citation) showed that being more informed actually correlates with stronger identity associations.

At the same time, the vast majority of Americans are not nearly as engaged with politics as the politics junkies imagine they are — what’s the term for when someone really knowledgeable has a hard time imagining how things look to someone with less information? The vast majority of people have little to no opinion on most issues. If you read about politics in the news, you are in the minority. I mean, shoot, there are many millions of people in America who barely know who the president is. We tend to assume that people are at least barely familiar with the issues, but most of them know nothing about it. It doesn’t surprise me at all that people would hold seemingly contradictory opinions, or feel put off by the discourse.

Anyway, I hope people will actually engage with this stuff instead of just shooting it, and each other, down.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:17 AM on October 10 [12 favorites]


what’s the term for when someone really knowledgeable has a hard time imagining how things look to someone with less information?

Expert blindness.

I kind of don't even have the energy for this. It kind of feels like logical fallacies all the way down. I mean, not the stats, I'm sure those were gathered competently, but the premises.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:21 AM on October 10 [12 favorites]


it's frightening to think that you could be an instant celebrity without even trying

It's also about as likely as being struck by lightning? I'm not saying it's not a cultural problem but it's also not actually a practical problem for almost anyone.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:22 AM on October 10 [12 favorites]


The one common theme between the 60s and our era is of course the Baby Boomers and the Me Generation. This is their legacy.

Intense, systematic, white supremacist violence and deep cultural and political divisions go back to the very founding of the country - in many important respects, the 1960s were not a unique time in US history, even if they are in current living memory. It's easy to point fingers at the postwar generation, but there are much more fundamental, definitional reckonings that have to happen, and blame to be assigned.

We're not getting out of this that easily.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:22 AM on October 10 [20 favorites]


This really feels like gross both-sidesism. Like, yes, pacifism and Nazism (e.g.) are two isms, gosh, now, can we move past that to figuring out how to make selfish people give a shit about those less fortunate?
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:24 AM on October 10 [27 favorites]


shapes that haunt the dusk, I've seen "typical mind bias" used to describe the error of assuming other people are much more like yourself than they are.

I don't think it's a very clear term (which mind is considered to be typical?) but I don't have a better one.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 11:26 AM on October 10 [1 favorite]


This is definitely just both-sidesism. Look at what they call out:

For example, 82% of Americans believe that the United States still has a serious problem with racism, but 80% also believe that political correctness has become a problem.

If nothing else, this only proves that cognitive dissonance is real, and I don't think we need a new PAC or whatever to tell us that. There's probably a psychology department at your local university.
posted by Automocar at 11:28 AM on October 10 [16 favorites]


I feel like this deserves attention because me and everyone I know is always freaking out about what feels like an extreme right wing takeover. I want to know if there’s a way to approach things differently, either in how I see the rest of the country, or in how the rest of the country should see me. I also want to know if that informs how we can more effectively approach people.

I feel like you can’t talk about this shit on this site without people accusing you of both-sides-ism. Like, maybe that’s not what this is really about? I don’t think the actual issues are the point here, I think it’s how most of the country sees them. Again, most of what I’ve seen does actually seem to agree with the political science stuff I read. You can disagree with THAT, but at any rate, I don’t think this means what people are saying it does.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:29 AM on October 10 [17 favorites]


The other problem with using the term "political correctness" is that the term has been on the receiving end of a decades long campaign to demonize it. I'd be willing to bet that if the study authors talked to people about the actual goal of political correctness - treating people of disparate origins with respect - they would find that there is a lot more support for that.
posted by NoxAeternum at 11:36 AM on October 10 [25 favorites]


But what the vast majority of Americans seem to see—at least according to the research conducted for “Hidden Tribes”—is not so much genuine concern for social justice as the preening display of cultural superiority.


Yeah, this just goes with the people like Trump because he speaks at a fourth grade reading level idea. People really hate anyone who they see as "being" superior, even when that means wacky little things like actually knowing facts and shit. They desperately want to feel as though their lives aren't being questioned, only the lives of those beneath them or of those awful pretentious snobs. We've long since abandoned the notion of cultural aspiration, replacing it with whatever you like is cool, because who can judge really.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:37 AM on October 10 [13 favorites]


this only proves that cognitive dissonance is real

I think it mainly proves that definitions matter, and that where you get your definitions from matters.

I mean, define "PC." It's a buzzword and largely meaningless*. Fox News is happy to define it for its viewers, though. Your asshole uncle probably has a working definition he'd like to share with you. FW: FW: FW: RE: YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE THIS emails are chock full of definitions for all kinds of things that you may or may not recognize as the definition you also have.

You can't just ask people what they think about political correctness. That's like asking people what they think about Obamacare.

*I'm, like, old and literally remember the first time I heard the term used. It was by Michael Stipe being interviewed on 120 Minutes and it did not have the definition then that it does now.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:41 AM on October 10 [23 favorites]


eponyposttitlesterycal?

Tried using puns on "Seven Nation Army", but none of them seemed to work out.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:45 AM on October 10 [2 favorites]


I am a young person that got "Traditional Liberal" instead of "Progressive Activist", so I'm really leaning into my cranky future as an Old.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 11:46 AM on October 10 [4 favorites]


"Immigration helps sectors of our economy be more successful & competitive" vs. "Immigration costs the welfare system and uses resources that could be spent on Americans"

It's really not difficult for me to come up with the "it's more complicated than either side's slogans would suggest" position for any of those, but this one is the easiest. That it "costs the welfare system" is sort of nonsensical; it's clear that the net balance of costs and benefits are to the favor of all the more immigration when it comes to standard economic measures including government revenue. Obviously it's going to boost economic growth, and people like that. But that GDP growth and government budget balance are the only things that matter here is an equally ridiculous idea. For one thing, a higher or lower rate of immigration makes a significant difference in overall population growth, and that comes with consequences that are in large part obvious and well-known but rarely ever mentioned in the context of immigration.

It so happens that I'm generally in favor of more open borders. Nonetheless it's way more complicated than either side's slogans would suggest, and there are valid arguments on both sides of the question of whether or not increased immigration does a nation good, let alone the more sophisticated questions of what particular rate of immigration is best or whether borders should exist at all.
posted by sfenders at 11:50 AM on October 10 [3 favorites]


What was that quote that was like "10% of people would stake you, 10% would save you, and 80% will just go with the flow?" I think this is just shades of the same thing even down to the 10% on either side. It's analytical, yeah, but ... wheres the thing where we can fix people so they give a shit about each other? Or is humanity just fucking doomed to teeter back and forth, faster and faster, leveraged by technology, on the brink of self-annihilation until we actually do ourselves in?
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:52 AM on October 10 [7 favorites]


This really feels like gross both-sidesism.

It is. Study after study has shown that polarization in the US is almost entirely driven by the right moving ever rightward and getting ever more violent and authoritarian about it. If they're really trying to put something like the belief in "PC Culture" on the same level as domestic terrorism and Jim Crow-style legal maneuverings, then that's pretty awful.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:53 AM on October 10 [65 favorites]


The weird thing about these perceptions of division is that the 1960s were objectively worse in the United States.

So I think this is one of those topics that gets a lot of hot takes, and that's unfortunate, because it leads to people not always realizing that actual content is there in some cases.

There's a difference, sociologically speaking, between civil and ethnic unrest and political division. When people say political division is worse than it ever has been, they don't mean that the gulf between political positions is worse than it has ever been, or that treatment of individuals or discrimination is worse than it has ever been. They are often referring specifically to the political-state-as-identity and the way people are creating social divisions because of political ones, rather than the reverse. And there's some really deep ways it is bad for the country when you have epistemic bubbles, because it means people aren't even encountering different ideas socially to engage with and correct them.

You're seeing that, I think, with these hidden tribes stuff. Folks are looking at the breakdown, and thinking, "well, this maps onto traditional statements of a political window except it divides us, this is no good." But when you dig down, it's actually really fascinating.

For example, I took their little 'quiz' thing, and got "Moderate", which is not what I would have previously thought. But when they explain their breakdown, it actually is more Democrat than not - it's more like they have adjusted to the Overton window as it exists these days, rather than the one we previously have thought. Moderates support sanctuary cities and overwhelmingly disapprove of Trump, by their definition.

I wish in many ways they hadn't used words that other people already associate with values, because I think it's making folks give them a cursory skim rather than engaging with the material.
posted by corb at 11:57 AM on October 10 [7 favorites]


now, can we move past that to figuring out how to make selfish people give a shit about those less fortunate?
What, are you a Progressive Activist(tm)?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:01 PM on October 10 [11 favorites]


Thinking about this, and about how Trump's approval rating is weirdly high considering what a garbage fire he and his administration are, about the "too much democracy" op-ed linked in the current politics thread, and about climate denialism and racism and everything else...

There is a considerable percentage of the population that is indeed "exhausted" and just wants things to be normal and okay. Instead of fighting to make things right, they just want to pretend everything is okay because it helps them ignore problems they don't personally have to face or can postpone. So they resent activists, women speaking out about sexual abuse, climate science and so on because it forces them to confront these things and recognize that it is not, in fact, okay. "PC culture" is one of those things.

I'm exhausted too, but I want things to be made right, not swept under a rug where they stink and fester until they become presidents or Supreme Court justices.
posted by Foosnark at 12:02 PM on October 10 [60 favorites]


I guess the thing that aggravates me is that none of this political acrimony is really necessary, unless you're a top-tier global capital-holder that stands to make even more incrementally useless to you buckets of money from war and arbitrage. You just stand back and look at the whole thing, how people are being jacked neurolinguistically in order to rile them up to hate for no actual good reason. It's all so frustrating! There's this huge apparatus installed globally to make vulnerable people respond to terror and fear by approving of authoritarianism and looking at it is like sitting in a car that's thrown a rod and looking at the windscreen getting oil all over it and saying, "yep, threw a rod. damn, that sucks." Mean while you're on the freeway, you know, and can't see or really stop and ... okay thanks I'm going to go take some meds or something. CIAO you're the best.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:06 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. Aiming to not have this thread devolve into accusations/insinuations/complaints about other Mefites, or about what things are always like on this site, etc. Just engage with the material and don't make it about your fellow Mefites.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:08 PM on October 10 [7 favorites]


There's a difference, sociologically speaking, between civil and ethnic unrest and political division. When people say political division is worse than it ever has been, they don't mean that the gulf between political positions is worse than it has ever been, or that treatment of individuals or discrimination is worse than it has ever been.

This is exactly the issue! Minorities who were so violently oppressed in the Civil rights area couldn’t even be politically active enough, engaged in the broader discourse enough, to contribute towards political division. So shit was objectively a lot worse then but those in power papered over it under the guise of civility. This is what centrists and moderates are trying to return us to.
posted by supercres at 12:09 PM on October 10 [16 favorites]


Progressive Activists (8% of the US population)

37% of Americans have favorable opinions of socialism, including 16% of Republicans. That's more than the "Progressives," "Traditional Liberals," and "Passive Liberals" combined. Why are there twice as many socialist Republicans as there are "Progressive Activists"?
posted by Rust Moranis at 12:13 PM on October 10 [13 favorites]


Why are there twice as many socialist Republicans as there are "Progressive Activists"?

I just took the poll and it seemed engineered to weed out any evidence of conflicting opinions or any subtle shading of belief.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:15 PM on October 10 [13 favorites]


Also, it really is amazing reading these descriptions how much the ideas of the "progressive activist" left, even (and in many cases) especially, are supported by the facts on the ground, whereas the "traditional" and "devoted" conservatives thrive on baseless conspiracy theories and straight-up bigotry.

Honestly, this kind of study and analysis is contributing to and very much a part of the problem. Like the sleazy Third Way organizations oozing out of the woodwork nowadays, they really want complain about tribalism for the arguments' sake. That's how a group that is ideological but generally aware of actual problems is somehow as much of the problem and the blame for it as extremists living in a shared delusion underpinned by a desire for bigoted violence.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:15 PM on October 10 [15 favorites]


But a majority of Americans belong to one of the middle groups, who do not identify with the unequivocal views of Progressive Activists or Devoted Conservatives.

I posit that this does not matter. It’s not symmetrical. Holding any sort of passive or centrist or moderate view is in a very real way supporting the status quo. Does it mean they want to make America into Gilead like the hardcore conservatives? No. But it also means that they don’t want to do anything to change wealth inequality or societal sexism or access to healthcare or racist policing or or or
posted by supercres at 12:15 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


Well, I got the coveted Progressive Activist score.

One thing that struck me about the quiz (which is of course different from the survey that was given), is the base assumptions in some of the questions. Case in point the one about whether most people can be trusted or whether you need to be wary of others. I suspect that the second answer gets a tick in the "conservative" column, but I answered that way anyway because I definitely need to be wary... of white men. But there isn't really the ability to tease that out, and there were a few questions like that where my answer was "Yeah, but not for the reasons this instrument is obviously extrapolating."
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:18 PM on October 10 [15 favorites]


Or put another way, the moderate platform: “Shit sucks for sure, but we don’t want to make it better at any no-matter-how-remotely unlikely cost to us. But hey we don’t want to make it worse so don’t you dare call us reactionary!”
posted by supercres at 12:19 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture
I don't doubt it. It's just that Americans also like to believe that it's always someone else demanding "political correctness" of them. Many of the same people who object to the word "cisgender" for example, will also insist on the importance of saying "Merry Christmas." While this
The way you have to term everything just right. And if you don’t term it right you discriminate them. It’s like everybody is going to be in the know of what people call themselves now and some of us just don’t know. But if you don’t know then there is something seriously wrong with you
is a characteristic of almost every argument over the regulation of guns.

So I'm not sure there's a lot of here here, except, maybe that a lot of Americans like to think of themselves as especially put upon.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:27 PM on October 10 [16 favorites]


There's some interesting stuff in Chapter 7 of the PDF, it is worth a read.

FWIW, the underlying data seems to mostly be coming from YouGov, which is good because it avoids some of the problems of phone-based surveys and polls (I suspect that YouGov probably skews younger and more tech-savvy than other polling methods). At this point I basically don't think that the pure phone-based stuff is worth much except for very particular demographics.

Anyway, I found this interesting:
The segment that reports feeling the most pressure from individuals of their own political ideology is the Progressive Activists, at 42 percent (compared to 29 percent average). Progressive Activists also feel more pressure from their party than others (41 percent v. 30 percent average). Sixty-one percent of Progressive Activists feel that Americans pressure each other to think and talk a certain way about issues, while only 37 percent of Devoted Conservatives felt the same way.
Which is sort of surprising, but then I remembered reading Mark Fisher's "Exiting the Vampire Castle", and now I'm not so sure. Food for thought, at any rate.

The stuff on Racial Identity and Privilege isn't terribly surprising, although it might be of interest to note that only Progressive Activists and Traditional Liberals seem to focus on race as a barrier, while the other groups—including not only the most conservative categories, but also the Politically Disengaged and Moderates—are more interested in wealth and income as dominant factors. That might be important in terms of crafting political appeals to swing demographics. (Devoted Conservatives don't seem to think there's any advantage to being white, which suggests they are not, uh, in touch with objective reality. Getting to them is probably a tall order.)

Interestingly, when they looked at sentiment towards different races, Progressive Activists were more hostile towards white people than Devoted Conservatives were to black people. Huh.

The paper discusses the relationship between 'strict' and 'permissive' parenting styles and various political stances, including views on same-sex marriage. I was at least a little heartened by the marriage question; even among 'strict' parenting-style respondents, 42% think same-sex marriage should be legal nationally. That's 10% higher than you get on "America needs more faith and religion" (vs. "America needs more reason and science"), which is approximately the point where I'd start backing away slowly from someone and trying not to make any sudden movements.

The Moral Foundations stuff was fascinating, though. Loyalty is predictably important to conservatives, and Progressive Activists seem to have taken the apocryphal Stalin quote about it being for dogs to heart; authority follows about the same trajectory. But fairness is marked as extremely important across the board, which suggests to me that if you want something with universal appeal (in the US, anyway), appeal to fairness. Caring is second; everything else is going to be polarizing in one way or another.

Why are there twice as many socialist Republicans as there are "Progressive Activists"?

The survey doesn't seem likely to capture these sorts of nuances, but it's certainly possible to have "favorable opinions of socialism" but still be a Republican; there are a fair number of very conservative people I've met who seem intrigued or even envious of (typically northern European) socialism, but assume that We Can't Have Nice Things here because there are too many brown people, basically. If you go far enough down this road, you will get to actual no-shit Nazis, incidentally.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:36 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


"One obvious question is what people mean by “political correctness.” In the extended interviews and focus groups, participants made clear that they were concerned about their day-to-day ability to express themselves: They worry that a lack of familiarity with a topic, or an unthinking word choice, could lead to serious social sanctions for them. But since the survey question did not define political correctness for respondents, we cannot be sure what, exactly, the 80 percent of Americans who regard it as a problem have in mind [italics mine]."
I mean, I think knowing what is being measured in the first place is a pretty fundamental principle of social research.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:39 PM on October 10 [30 favorites]


One thing that struck me about the quiz (which is of course different from the survey that was given), is the base assumptions in some of the questions. Case in point the one about whether most people can be trusted or whether you need to be wary of others.

The trust thing is weird, as is "the world is a more dangerous place" and the extremely vague "going in the wrong direction".

I think the world is in many ways becoming more dangerous because of the fascist resurgence and continued climate inaction. A conservative is probably going to say it's more dangerous because of Antifa and BLM and so on.

The least trustful people I know are xenophobes who live sheltered lives and have been trained to be afraid of PoC, trans people, Muslims etc. The second least trustful are those living under the legitimate threat of attack by racists, homophobes, misogynists, police (but I repeat myself) etc.
posted by Foosnark at 12:42 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


You may not believe in the moderate middle, but how will you win elections if the moderate middle doesn’t believe in you?

Well, besides fixing voter suppression. But is that numerically sufficient? I get that the status quo is unjust, but the vast majority of people who tacitly support it are ignorant of it. Writing them off as Little Eichmanns does nothing to win elections, while we still have them.

the Politically Disengaged and Moderates—are more interested in wealth and income as dominant factors

It’s still the economy, stupid
posted by Apocryphon at 12:43 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


I'm with CrystalDave and Noxaeturnum.

So if I'm getting the premise here, the 'truth' (or at least the road to harmony) is somewhere in the middle, as the cliche goes, and what a cliche it is.

(my examples are all about personal dialogue so you could say I'm focusing on the micro and not the macro level, but both interconnect and the macro level sets the tone for the micro level dialogues)

My brother trotted out this old saw when my mom told me to move to Rwanda for criticizing Trump and that she was 'tired' of my visit when I tried to explain that no, Ford shouldn't have "known" better and that she wouldn't raise her own sons to rape women, would she? And when I tried to calmly rebut every lame point she made on Trump with a fact (my favorite of hers was "well, I'll say this for him: He doesn't hide anything") she basically said I should just go home.

So in conversations with right wing relatives, am I supposed to avoid tribalism by saying something like "Well you have a point there, however..." when my mom says rape victims are to blame and that Ford is a big crybaby?

We probably all have The One Ranty Relative (or several), the one that gets even more incensed when you try to reason with them because there you are, being so uppity and superior with your hoity-toity facts and information. Are we supposed to never show any emotion when they say something completely horrible and laud them for "sharing their views"? What is moderation anyway when you're being baited by authoritarian folks who just love
Trump's grotesque displays of abuse of power in the name of keeping the status quo?

That's not about any attempt at dialogue, that's about shouting down the opposition before it even starts. They just want their retrograde opinions affirmed by the Big Dawgs in the WH.

I also agree with Crystal Dave (?) who said that it's bullshit to say, in the Kavanaugh hearing (I'm focussing on that lightening rod but you could use other examples), that 'both sides' display bigotry. That's total "won't somebody think about the rapists?" type shit right there.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 12:43 PM on October 10 [15 favorites]


I'm 42 pages into the 160 page version, and I think it's way better than the summary version. An explanatory quote from midway:
Yet it would be a mistake to think of the Exhausted Majority merely as a group of political centrists, at least in the way that term is traditionally understood. They do not simply represent a midpoint between the warring tribes of the left and right. They are frustrated with the status quo and the conduct of American politics and public debate. They overwhelmingly believe that the American government is rigged to serve the rich and influential, and they want things to change.
The survey doesn't seem likely to capture these sorts of nuances

Those nuances are really, really hard. Like, "more science/more religion" - I want both! But there's no 'both' option. I want more faith, which I see as a traditional leveler of social and economic class, but also I don't want to run away from science. I can't be the only one.
posted by corb at 12:46 PM on October 10 [7 favorites]


Writing them off as Little Eichmanns does nothing to win elections, while we still have them.

Odd argument to make, since no one here or in any of the people described in the study said this. That may be what the study's authors said they thought someone somewhere believed, but like so much in this report, there's nothing to support it.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:48 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


The comments going “moderates are just as bad as the hardliners because they’re still passively supporting the power system” seems to be both condemning their position and dismissing their existence in the electorate.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:50 PM on October 10 [7 favorites]


FT first link: We used an advanced statistical process called hierarchical clustering to identify groups of people with similar core beliefs. This revealed seven groups of Americans―what we call Hidden Tribes―with distinctive views and values.

Hierarchical clustering might be "advanced" (it is not that advanced), but it's not necessarily the best way to approach data like this, I think. I'd like to see a principle components analysis instead, because I'd like to know how different "progressive activists" really are from "passive liberals" and how different "devoted conservatives" are from "traditional conservatives." As someone said well up in the thread, this binning approach makes it seem like there are seven discrete equidistant tribes when the actual distribution in ideology-space is probably not these neat. (I know, because I *definitely* use hierarchical clustering on my data in order to accentuate the differences/similarities. But I present the PCA, too!)

Is the data downloadable? I think I could produce a PCA pretty quickly.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 12:52 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


Condemning, yes, but I don't see them "writing them off as little Eichmanns." Indeed, the comments from posters like supercres go out of their way to say they're not the same as the MAGA chuds.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:54 PM on October 10


Are we supposed to never show any emotion when they say something completely horrible and laud them for "sharing their views"?

I came across a Facebook post the other day that was just a dumb viral video of a couple guys supposedly drinking Helium Beer. I mean, it's clearly bullshit, but it was done well enough that if you don't think about it like, at all, you could plausibly believe that such a thing exists. Which is fine. I don't think about a lot of stuff that I scroll past on the book of faces. But with this one I went in to read the comments and the first person to point out the actual science (not in a mean or oh ho ho you silly sheeple kind of way just a matter-of-fact "this is funny but also not possible because that's not how helium works" way) got absolutely SAVAGED in the weirdest way. It was the clearest example I've ever seen of a backlash effect. But, like, that doesn't make helium beer into a thing that actually exists. It still isn't a thing. If you're a person who is at all invested in the categories "real thing" and "not real thing" I'm not sure how you interact with people for whom that distinction is fightin' words.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:55 PM on October 10 [13 favorites]


They worry that a lack of familiarity with a topic, or an unthinking word choice, could lead to serious social sanctions for them. But since the survey question did not define political correctness for respondents, we cannot be sure what, exactly, the 80 percent of Americans who regard it as a problem have in mind

That's just weirdly conceived. I mean the problem they worry about is expressed right there. It's the uncertainty and fear of saying something wrong that defines PC for them. The underlying fear, of course, is that they'll confirm to others some belief that they aren't aware is part of a problem, that they might say something racist they didn't know was bad, which then would require either bullshit justification or acceptance they might not be who they actually think they are in harboring some unquestioned beliefs. Fear of personal embarrassment overrides any other concern, so "PC" to them is the symbol of their own cultural ignorance they don't want exposed.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:56 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


Is the data downloadable? I think I could produce a PCA pretty quickly.

To be honest, I'm not sure.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:02 PM on October 10


I feel like some of my community members - specifically Jewish and trans people with more historical and poli-sci knowledge - are realistic about diversity of tactics, tone arguments, and the mechanics of social change. More privileged and clueless people are likely to have absorbed misinformation about effective activism primarily being kind and non-threatening - especially in the US, especially as part of the whitewashing of MLK. If I had a dollar for every cis person suggesting we would be more effective if we were less confrontational, I could probably establish a separatist no-cis-people island.

I think enough moderates exist that their support would be beneficial. I think aggressive far-left activism - everything from nitpicking language to punching neo-Nazis - is more likely to gain their support than trying to non-threateningly reach across the aisle or whatever.
posted by bagel at 1:13 PM on October 10 [12 favorites]


(we could provisionally allow some cis people if they could provide letters of recommendation from a doctor, a mental health care provider, and a rabbi.)
posted by bagel at 1:18 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


I've read some more of the report, and really, I think the problem with this is just that it's trying to present fairly uncontroversial polling data as a doctrine of unity, or whatever. They're editorializing too much with their terms and their presentation. It feels a little self-consciously catchphrase-y, like they can't just describe stuff, they have to give it all catchy terms. They end up confusing things by giving groups labels like "Progressive Activists." I think they're just trying to make the information easily accessible, but I don't think they're taking the right approach.

The data itself isn't surprising, given that political polarization is a really hot topic. The overall message seems pretty positive, and it's pretty much all descriptive, aside from a few suggestions at the end (like use "we" statements to speak of the country as a whole, yadda yadda). They say "today, millions of Americans are going about their lives with absurdly inaccurate perceptions of each other," and yeah, that sounds about right.

I don't know about the survey design or data analysis. That's not something I'm qualified to talk about at all. Like I said, though, it's not like they're the first people to come to the conclusion that the American voter base is extremely polarized, and that the majority of people don't really have strong opinions one way or the other.

They don't appear to be saying that the truth is in the middle, or that we need to just compromise between everyone. They're not saying Nazis and Antifa are equally bad. They're not saying racism is OK. They're just describing polarization with a report that seems to be intended for a wide audience. I think it's got its problems, but I don't think this is what a lot of people seem to imagine it is.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 1:24 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


Tried using puns on "Seven Nation Army", but none of them seemed to work out.

ahh you don't even wanna know how badly my attempt to riff on the lyrics of that Frankie Goes To Hollywood song went
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:25 PM on October 10


"They are frustrated with the status quo and the conduct of American politics and public debate. They overwhelmingly believe that the American government is rigged to serve the rich and influential, and they want things to change."
But isn't this what many people say every year? It's practically the mating cry of the low information voter. They're barely even beliefs, so much as reflexive "throw the bums out" instincts. It isn't clear to me what conclusions can even be deduced from these beliefs.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:25 PM on October 10 [7 favorites]


Fuck this false equivalency bullshit. One party embraced the Southern Strategy of dogwhistle racism and just elected a guy who just comes out and says it. One party elected a guy with multiple accusations of sexual assault and went to the mattresses to put another guy with multiple accusations of sexual assault on the Supreme Court.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:26 PM on October 10 [9 favorites]


It isn't clear to me what conclusions can even be deduced from these beliefs.

It doesn't seem like the purpose is to draw conclusions from the beliefs but rather to illuminate the percentage of the population represented by the low-information voter. If, as people have pointed out above, strong political identities are correlated with level of information, then of course this group has little to no strong political identity.

So the question would seem to be: who will turn out to have the knack for informing these folks, and what will that information be? Can we get to them before the Nazis do?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 1:33 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


One thing that has absolutely DIED in me is any interest at all in listening to the other side. If that makes me "tribal" or whatever- I have no interest in "coming together to fix" a relationship with any group that espouses conservative beliefs. Kids are literally in camps, y'all. Sure, not everyone is a virulent racist, but one thing props up another.

I mean to say an article like this is dangerous in that it smacks of normalizing fence-sitting, which I hold in near-equal contempt. If there's one thing we don't need right now, it's more centrists.

I'm not trying to sound crazy. I'm sure there are at least a FEW things people all across the spectrum can agree on. But one side is literally wearing a beauty pageant sash that says "I'm hot for authoritarianism and terrorizing marginalized people." There is a real good guys vs. bad guys thing happening right here and right now, so much so that even if the most outrageous injustices are righted (and there are many, so probably unlikely) there will still be so much left to do. I'm praying for the day where I'm entitled to my "crazy leftist" viewpoints for really extreme, progressive social change- not trying to fix the most basic, inherent questions of human rights and dignity in one of the richest, supposedly most civilized countries on Earth. Things that should have been already solved, and indeed FELT like settled fact even a few years are suddenly back up for question- like "are they people too?" kind of fucked up.

Also: "70% frustrated by how "both sides" handled Kavanaugh nomination-" What the further fuck, America?
posted by Krazor at 1:35 PM on October 10 [32 favorites]


It's practically the mating cry of the low information voter. They're barely even beliefs, so much as reflexive "throw the bums out" instincts. It isn't clear to me what conclusions can even be deduced from these beliefs.

Well, "they overwhelmingly believe that the American government is rigged to serve the rich and influential" is not insignificant. That's probably not exactly a new position to hold, but if the number of people believing it has gone up over time—and I don't know if that's true, I'm speculating, but it doesn't seem exactly hard to believe—that would be pretty significant.

Conservativism, at least traditional conservativism, is basically opposed to change; it's has maintaining the status quo at the core of most of its policy. If enough people believe that maintaining the status quo isn't a good idea, that's going to be a tough position to maintain.

This could, to some extent, explain the Republican party's slide from traditional/paleoconservativism into neoconservativism, which really isn't conservativism at all, but the promotion of a specific agenda of social change (very different from the traditional progressive ideas of what should be changed, but it's a 'change' platform nonetheless), and more recently into rank populism.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:36 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Well, couldn't one use those findings to wrap up progressive policies with a bellicose "throw the bums out" message? Couldn't one frame a platform in ways that low-information voters could appreciate? At least this study can teach you how to tweak your marketing.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:39 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


They don't appear to be saying that the truth is in the middle, or that we need to just compromise between everyone. They're not saying Nazis and Antifa are equally bad. They're not saying racism is OK. They're just describing polarization with a report that seems to be intended for a wide audience. I think it's got its problems, but I don't think this is what a lot of people seem to imagine it is.

Dr. King spelled it out famously in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to 'order' than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.
Things are polarized for a reason - because the oppressed are pushing back, and the oppressors are desperately clinging to power. And if your concern is over a lack of comity, then you are enabling the oppressors.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:40 PM on October 10 [28 favorites]


As always, I recommend reading American Nations, about the cultural battles that have raged in the US since the founding of the country.

As for both-sides-ism, it's such bunk. One side is putting children into camps, screaming at hour-long hate rallies, and running people they don't like over with a car. The other side said a mean thing on Twitter. But both sides!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:42 PM on October 10 [23 favorites]


I'll cop to this, in that I've been putting more and more work, time, and cash into the hands of LGBTQ people and less into massaging the feels of straight moderates or even straight progressives. And if we meet over a cup of coffee and you use the wrong word, I might suggest alternatives, or I might let it slide. I think the vocabulary fear is largely overblown, except perhaps in slaktivism, in which case, you should probably log out of that social media account and show up at a center or at a church where things get real.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 1:59 PM on October 10 [13 favorites]


When minority activists circle our wagons, it's often because the only way that our cultural, spiritual, and health needs get met is by investing in ourselves.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:09 PM on October 10 [17 favorites]


Rust Moranis: "Traditional Conservatives" and "Devoted Conservatives" combined at 25% when Trump's approval permanently hovers around 40% is absolutely laughable. It implies that all "Moderates" are Trump supporters.
the Politically Disengaged are more suspicious of immigrants and more likely to support extreme measures to control borders than the other two tribes.
Add the 26% of "Politically Disengaged" who are border extremists to the two conservative groups and you've got more than enough to explain the number of Trump voters. I suspect that this tribe is what we typically call "people who call themselves Independents and always vote Republican."
posted by clawsoon at 2:10 PM on October 10 [3 favorites]


Things are polarized for a reason - because the oppressed are pushing back, and the oppressors are desperately clinging to power. And if your concern is over a lack of comity, then you are enabling the oppressors.

I feel like you're deliberately misreading me. This is a widely-known and accepted phenomenon in American political science. Literally nothing I said, and nothing I have read so far by the authors of this report, equates left and right, or pushes for moderation of views. I say "they are describing a well-known phenomenon," and you come back at me with Letter From a Birmingham Jail as if I'm trying to excuse racism? What the fuck? Could you give me the tiniest ounce of good faith here?

Political polarization is a specific phenomenon in politics wherein the positions taken by both parties are much further apart than they were in the past. Beliefs are much more rigid than in the past. The driver of this is not "the oppressed pushing back," but the right wing moving sharply to the extreme. The voters have limited power to fight this kind of political polarization, because the two party system leaves people with limited choices. Voter behavior is now also more heavily influenced by party identity, and there are practically zero true independents left. People identify as, say, Republicans because they always have, and they associate the party with honesty and hard work; they are probably also ignorant of the actual issues at stake, so they tend to vote because of the values that party espouses. In fact, research has shown that people are often more likely to support an issue if it's supported by their party. This is true of both parties, especially with high-information voters, but is much more sharply defined on the right; again, this is why they're the drivers of political polarization.

The vast majority of the country knows nothing about politics. Even when polled, they are often just forming an opinion on the spot, because maintaining a truly informed opinion on everything takes a lot of work that the majority of people don't have time, energy, or attention for. A lot of polls can be misleading, because we imagine that people are walking around with preconceived ideas, where the reality might be that they've never given it any thought before. The vast majority of the country does not read the news. As I said before, there is a very large number of people who barely know who the President is.

Describing these phenomena is not making excuses for them. It is, in fact, identifying a problem that needs to be addressed. Polarization is bad, not because both sides are right, but because the described phenomenon of political polarization encourages people to vote against even their own interests out of party and identity loyalty. Something might be broadly appealing to the majority of the country, but if the wrong party suggests it to a polarized voter, it will become less appealing. This goes a long way towards explaining apparently contradictory beliefs and self-sabotaging voting.

If we want this country to move towards actual social and economic justice and fairness, WE NEED to recognize how polarization is hindering our efforts. Literally nothing about this is giving an ounce of credit to oppressive people or ideas. This is fully, 100% about understanding politics as the majority of voters interprets it, so we can understand the actual obstacles in front of us. This is fully about trying to find areas where party identity has masked the potential for actual positive movement (like if, say, broadly anti-racist or socialist ideas are already accepted by the majority, we don't need to convince anyone they're right, we just need to consider how something like party identity will work against implementing it in practice).

But seriously, give me the tiniest bit of credit here. Jesus Christ.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:10 PM on October 10 [38 favorites]


Also, fun fact, lots of people identify as Independent, but they're different from true independents in that their beliefs are pretty rigid and unchanging. Their identity is that of the independent free thinker, but their voting behavior pretty strictly stays with one party, and they're more likely to be influenced by those party positions than by anything else (I can't remember if it's more often with Republicans, but it's not a stretch to imagine it's the Rs). Practically no one switches between Republican and Democratic candidates according to whose views they like more.

Also, another fun fact, it is mathematically impossible for a third party to ever win the presidency.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:25 PM on October 10 [5 favorites]


This really reminds me of Esquire / NBC's survey in 2013 that found eight divisions and a "new american center."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:35 PM on October 10 [1 favorite]


It turns out that while progressive activists tend to think that only hate speech is a problem, and devoted conservatives tend to think that only political correctness is a problem, a clear majority of all Americans holds a more nuanced point of view: They abhor racism. But they don’t think that the way we now practice political correctness represents a promising way to overcome racial injustice. [emphasis added]

Yeah, I don't think that the mainstream opinion towards political correctness is necessarily a "nuanced view". Also I think a lot of people who say they abhor racism but think political correctness is a problem don't abhor racism quite as much as they think they do. Odds are good they have problems with little r racism (e.g. racial slurs or literally saying certain minorities are worse or don't belong here) but don't acknowledge big r Racism (structural inequality, microaggressions, etc).
posted by Deathalicious at 2:46 PM on October 10 [17 favorites]


Well, "they overwhelmingly believe that the American government is rigged to serve the rich and influential" is not insignificant.

Is this a sufficient plank on which to build a campaign or make policy? For ex, does this mean that the people who believe this want a 90% tax rate on incomes over X million dollars or does it mean that they think that the Jews or Hollywood or “coastal elites” run the government? It could be either and that’s one of problems.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:54 PM on October 10 [11 favorites]


The idea of compromise is always a problem in political discussions. A chicken can afford to compromise on the contents of breakfast with some of her eggs. A Pig cannot afford to compromise at all on choice between bacon, ham and sausage.
posted by Megafly at 3:13 PM on October 10 [10 favorites]


Another sort of similar "look we made some groups" was this one specific to Toronto from 2015, which at least made some interesting divisions. Sadly, it doesn't seem like you can still take it for yourself.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:28 PM on October 10


Also, another fun fact, it is mathematically impossible for a third party to ever win the presidency.

I disagree with this sentence on the grounds of mathematics, politics, eternity, and fun.
posted by sfenders at 3:30 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


When minority activists circle our wagons, it's often because the only way that our cultural, spiritual, and health needs get met is by investing in ourselves.

This so much. Just the other day I was thinking about how dispirited I've become on the global warming thing. As a big ol' science nerd I've been interested in it, and talking about it for decades. It doesn't seem to have mattered.

And I think people need to appreciate how much that hurts. *Tactically* it may be sound to keep putting yourself in the shoes of the self-identified moderates to figure out how to craft the best rhetoric to reach them this time and break down the partisanship because the future of the planet depends on it.

But I can't do that anymore. There's nothing left in me to keep going that far decade after decade. It hurts, and I'm tired. I want people who want me to empathize with others to empathize with me, and realize what they're asking.
posted by traveler_ at 4:23 PM on October 10 [19 favorites]


Also, another fun fact, it is mathematically impossible for a third party to ever win the presidency.

I do not disagree, strictly speaking, but is a third party that wins still a third party? :-)
posted by zaixfeep at 4:43 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]




"87% of Americans: "most divided our country has been in my lifetime"

Historically, not so sure this holds water. This person's lifetime notwithstanding.

Indian wars? Abolition? Attacks on unionists ( IWW purge) ?
Civil War times were pretty damned nasty as well.

Compared to those times, we' all have the option to be instantly informed ... much more in our faces.
posted by Twang at 5:51 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


The real political correctness was to be found during the Iraq war, and it was every single thing being turned into a referendum on the Troops.
posted by Typhoon Jim at 6:22 PM on October 10 [8 favorites]


Also, another fun fact, it is mathematically impossible for a third party to ever win the presidency.

What does this mean? Mathematically impossible because the percentage of voters who reliably vote either Democratic or Republican in presidential elections is >50%? That still doesn’t mean it’s impossible, because not even close to 100% of eligible voters bother to vote.
posted by Automocar at 6:34 PM on October 10


In the quiz, I think the very first question counts for most of the "activist" vs "passive" distinction. All of my views were strongly socialist. I am in China, and an expat, so in a practical sense completely disengaged from politics. But all of the "PC gone too far" and other stuff, no that's not me at all.

So yeah, a bit of a lame quiz.
posted by Meatbomb at 8:24 PM on October 10


What does this mean? Mathematically impossible because the percentage of voters who reliably vote either Democratic or Republican in presidential elections is >50%?

As I remember it, Duverget's Law states that a first-past-the-post voting system like ours tends to favor a two-party system. However, the US is unique in that we also have the Electoral College. So when you cast your vote, it goes to to your state , and ALL of your state's electoral votes go to one candidate or the other (unless you're in Nebraska, right?). Then your state total goes to the presidential race, which is also first-past-the-post. The whole system basically ensures that we don't deviate from two parties, because it's impossible to get enough electoral votes for the third party candidate. The only way for a third party to win is for a large bloc to switch all at once, but then it's still effectively only two parties in competition.

I can't find the paper I remember, and anyway this is all a derail. I'm not pretending to be an expert on this, I just thought it was interesting.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:27 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Both sides may hate the other, but these days only one side tends to use terms like "tribalism," "both sides," and symmetrical framing. For the left, claims of symmetry are as laughable as claims that science supports both sides, or that bigotry and hating bigots are equivalent. The idea of symmetry has died, right alongside the idea of the moderate Republican.
posted by chortly at 9:42 PM on October 10 [2 favorites]


Political correctness has clearly gone too far when the whole country has a shit fight over whether a few guys can sit down while the national anthem plays. But I'll bet that isn't what people are thinking about when they make that complaint, weird huh?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:18 AM on October 11 [4 favorites]




The idea of symmetry has died, right alongside the idea of the moderate Republican.

Replace the linear spectrum of political ideas with domains of governing authority: self-decision (by rights), majority-decision, tradition/religion, nature/power. It is not predetermined for politics. One populates the areas freely with the issues, avoiding the danger of falling into an idea through normal disagreement, by removing the opposite-only reaction native to the linear spectrum. It shouldn't surprise when some become communist or fascist in this century when they are often at the ends of a mental spectrum, essentially representing good and evil as a political orientation, with one extreme being best by default.
posted by Brian B. at 1:15 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


Also, another fun fact, it is mathematically impossible for a third party to ever win the presidency.

That's what happened in 1860.

Duverger's law is (a) mostly profoundly wrong -- the two parties in the UK are Labour, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the SNP, Sinn Fein, the DUP, UUP, UKIP, and Greens. The two parties in Canada are the Liberals, Tories, NDP, Greens, and BQ. And (b) it's about parliamentary or legislative representation, not the executive.

The most you can actually say is that 1pp/smd systems create an incentive for strategic voting that exerts *some* downward pressure on the number of parties.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 4:42 AM on October 11 [2 favorites]


GCU Sweet and Full of Grace: Duverger's law is (a) mostly profoundly wrong

Indeed. In fact, one thing that you see in non-US FPP systems is that they give third parties their best chance to form majority governments. With FPP, parties in Canada (federally and provincially) regularly get majority governments with 35-40% of the vote.
posted by clawsoon at 6:10 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


If first-past-the-post is stipulated in the presidential election all the way down to the lowest offices, then a modified Duverger's law seems to hold. It's the spoiler-effect enforcing simplicity. If the US got rid of the presidential direct election in favor of a congressional majority, then regional parties would likely find a foothold in that process. The trick is getting a third party to exist long term without risking election harm to voters.
posted by Brian B. at 8:05 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


My own suspicion is that the American two-party system is maintained where it isn't in other FPP systems because American parties have mastered the art of "OMG THE OTHER SIDE IS HORRIBLE DEMONS ANY VOTE FOR A THIRD PARTY SENDS YOU TO HELL!!" in a way that parties in other democracies have tried to do but never quite succeeded at.

Or it might be that the conservative, religious bloc is bigger in the U.S. than it is in most other Western democracies. I... well... actually, I have no idea.
posted by clawsoon at 8:29 AM on October 11 [1 favorite]


My sense has been that

How D/R feel about the other party : tiny firecracker :: How Scots feel about Tories : Czar Bomba
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:15 AM on October 11 [3 favorites]


Duverger's law is (a) mostly profoundly wrong

Yeah there’s a million counterexamples, but that’s why I was saying there’s a unique situation with US presidential races. It’s the combination of FPP voting and the electoral college that makes third party victory impossible. That’s why I’m talking about the presidential election here, instead of other races.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 11:05 AM on October 11


I'm still not sure how the Electoral College changes things. If you had three parties, couldn't an American presidential candidate win with 35-40% of the popular vote, just the same as with any other FPP system? You came close to that in 1992, when Clinton won with 43% of the popular vote.

Maybe it's more common in other systems because third parties can at least win some seats, and that provides a psychological boost, while there's only one president?
posted by clawsoon at 4:32 PM on October 11


couldn't an American presidential candidate win with 35-40% of the popular vote

A typical presidential election features about nine or ten parties. It's why Al Gore had trouble in 2000 (ballot design issues and eyesight challenges in Florida). And you can write someone in. Theoretically, someone could win with almost any low amount, say, 15%, if it was a very crazy year with major celebrities going third party. All we ever needed to have a realistic third-party exist was either an expensive runoff, or the simple ability to vote for a listed person AND a listed party, as a safety vote, winner take all (perhaps allowing some primary losers to run again without sacrificing the election).
posted by Brian B. at 8:35 PM on October 11


I think what exhausts me about this is - okay, I grew up in a conservative-ish family in a conservative-ish area. Very midwest, shucks, let's all just get along. I know that culture.

I know, too, that there are plenty of people who self-identify as moderately conservative, or "socially liberal but fiscal conservative". I know plenty of people who vote mostly-entirely GOP who are also personally pro-choice and at least okay with gay marriage / LGBTQ rights.

And yet they keep fucking voting for anti-gay, anti-abortion fanatics, out of their belief that these people are still 'better' than Democrats with the economy, or terrorism, or individual freedoms (unless you are gay or a woman.)

I am tired. I am tired of telling people it's okay, I know they don't personally hate gays and women, when they keep voting for people who do. I am tired of hearing that I need to understand them and be "tolerant" because they don't agree with "the whole conservative agenda". I am tired of the "good conservatives" being willing to gamble our futures because "they'll never REALLY get rid of Roe, or gay marriage".

I need them to take action. I keep hearing there are reasonable, good, moderate Republicans out there. I need them to stand the fuck up to their party. I need them to support and vote for pro-choice Republicans if that's their belief. I need them to run for office themselves if their party-groomed candidates don't represent their beliefs. Where is the progressive GOP movement?
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:22 AM on October 12 [11 favorites]


Observation #1:

The Moral Foundations stuff was fascinating, though. Loyalty is predictably important to conservatives, and Progressive Activists seem to have taken the apocryphal Stalin quote about it being for dogs to heart; authority follows about the same trajectory. But fairness is marked as extremely important across the board, which suggests to me that if you want something with universal appeal (in the US, anyway), appeal to fairness. Caring is second; everything else is going to be polarizing in one way or another.

So, fairness has multiple possible definitions - both mathematically (eg. studying fair division problems) and philosophically/politically. "Fair" can mean everyone having certain base security and opportunities. Or "fair" can mean no one getting something they're deemed not to deserve. The language of fairness is indeed useful, but my understanding is that prior research shows that liberals/progressives and conservatives focus on distinct aspects or meanings of the term.
posted by eviemath at 11:12 AM on October 13 [2 favorites]


Observtion #2:

Taking the quiz from outside of the US, in a country with significantly less economic inequality, with a still quite imperfect but at least better social safety net, and with at least some base level of universal health care seems likely to have skewed the algorithm's interpretation of the economic status of me and my close networks.
posted by eviemath at 11:14 AM on October 13


Observation #3:

There are fundamental structural differences between the US electoral system and parliamentary systems. The US system is "winner takes all" in basically all senses of the word. Meanwhile in a parliamentary system, each riding (the equivalent of a state or federal Congressional district) election is decided on a first past the post basis, but parties then get some degree of proportional representation in the parliamentary body. And if no party wins a majority of seats, then either the party wining the plurality can form a "minority government" (which has less power than a majority government in specific structural ways), or two or more parties can get together to form a coalition government, even if none of the member parties were the plurality winner. This gives third (and fourth, etc.) parties a level of power that is not structurally possible in the US.

Ranked choice voting would still be more democratic, of course.
posted by eviemath at 11:20 AM on October 13


Observation #4:

On discussions of tactics, this link from one of the other fpps on what electoral activists can learn from union organizers seems relevant.
posted by eviemath at 11:23 AM on October 13 [1 favorite]


eviemath: And if no party wins a majority of seats, then either the party wining the plurality can form a "minority government" (which has less power than a majority government in specific structural ways), or two or more parties can get together to form a coalition government, even if none of the member parties were the plurality winner. This gives third (and fourth, etc.) parties a level of power that is not structurally possible in the US.

I dunno. I think that you could argue that the Boll Weevils and Blue Dogs formed an informal regional third party in the U.S. that had more-or-less the kind of minority party power that you're talking about, but for some reason they never formed an actual permanent third party.

I think you are on to something, though. Maybe it's the power of a third party in a minority government to take down the government in a no-confidence vote and force an election that makes them more powerful and prominent in parliamentary systems? In the U.S., even impeaching the president doesn't result in the possibility of changing the party which controls the executive, at least not until the next fixed election date.
posted by clawsoon at 9:14 AM on October 14


Ed Kilgore: No, Hate Speech and Political Correctness Are Not Equivalent
These are tough times for the endangered species of Professional Centrists: pundits (and a shrinking cadre of politicians) who are deeply invested in the idea that deep investment in ideology is ruining the country; passionate advocates against passionate advocacy; a small and often self-righteous party of nonpartisans. They have a new piece of research evidence to bolster their case for a-plague-on-both-houses politics: a typology of Americans conducted by an international group called More in Common that is engaged in a worthy effort to tease out areas of political collaboration across the usual partisan and ideological lines.

Their latest handiwork, however, is dealt from a very stacked deck: it posits that various groups it labels “The Exhausted Majority” are being manipulated and even silenced by “The Wings,” which it identifies as Progressive Activists on the left and Devoted Conservatives (supplemented by Traditional Conservatives, who have come to resemble their hard-core allies) on the right. Together “The Wings” represent only a third of the population, but they control political discourse for the time being.
[...]
Ponder that argument for a moment: Americans are equally repressed by bigotry and efforts to prevent bigotry. Yes, of course, “political correctness” can go too far, but the idea that it’s morally equivalent to the ancient evils it exists to inhibit is as horrifying to me as the extremism Brooks and Lane fear. Some Americans feel repressed by “Happy Holidays” greetings that don’t reflect their particular faith tradition. The idea that this is as legitimate a concern as the desire to end millennia of actual persecution in the name of religion is morally obtuse.

The desire to compromise with evil in order to reduce conflict is as primordial as good and evil themselves. So is that the only alternative to total civic and political warfare that rends the nation for generations?

Not necessarily. People evolve as well. It’s reasonably well established that today’s era of intense ideological and partisan polarization stemmed initially from a radicalized conservative movement conquering one of our two major political parties, as part of a steadily building (and global) backlash against recent cultural, economic and demographic trends. If, as Barack Obama once publicly hoped, the “fever breaks” and the right adapts itself to some of those changes (e.g., racial and gender equality, acceptance of sexual minorities, a minimally egalitarian political and economic order) then we can have a robust but civil political competition that doesn’t feel like civil war. Many of today’s conservatives, unfortunately, would consider adjustment to a society in which equality is a value as fundamental as property rights or the traditional family as a full surrender–which is why they so proudly call themselves “politically incorrect.” And that’s why they must be fought in an uncompromising manner, even if that offends the sensibilities of those for whom denying “irrepressible conflict” is second nature. America has been trying to repress the conflict over equality for most of its history. It clearly has not worked.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:08 PM on October 16 [4 favorites]


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