Chart of the Day

Paul Waldman has some really interesting thoughts on this chart from Pew.  First, take a moment to digest the chart:



What’s really interesting here isn’t so much the views about Democrats — that’s pretty much what you’d expect, that voters of the opposing party would find it to be far more extreme than its own partisans, who know where their own party has disappointed them, would place it. What’s odd, though, is the fact that on average there’s so little difference between how Republicans and Democrats see the GOP. There’s obviously some diversity within those groups — some Democrats see the GOP as extreme, while others see it as moderate — but it’s still notable.

So why is this? It’s hard to say, but my nominee would be the differing media systems partisans are drawn to. Conservatives are more likely to seek out highly partisan information sources — Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, etc. — than Democrats are. The latter may take in the occasional episode of Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow, but they’re getting most of their news from more neutral places like NPR and CNN. What makes the difference is that the idea that the Democratic Party is a bunch of socialists with a radical leftist agenda is a core component of the rhetoric on Fox, Limbaugh, et al. If you get your news from them, you’ll hear that message every day, again and again. And eventually you’ll start to believe it.

To me, the most disturbing thing about this is just the further evidence of Republicans being so removed from the actual real world where the rest of us live.  Many of my students tell me they watch Fox just for “entertainment” etc., but obviously very many Republicans truly, and quite inaccurately, believe the Democratic party is far more liberal than it actually is.

Yglesias also has some interesting speculation (and I definitely think he’s on to something) on how including the Tea Party may affect the results:

Now on to the irresponsible speculation. Looking at this chart, I wonder if Republican politicians are benefitting from a psychological anchor phenomenon around the fact that the media has adopted the conceit that there’s something called the “tea party movement” that’s distinct from the conservative base of the Republican Party. Voters seem to see themselves as about equidistant between Democrats and Tea Parties, which means they’re closer to Republicans than to Democrats. But it’s hard for me to think of important policy disputes between, say, John Boehner & Paul Ryan and tea party leaders.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Chart of the Day

  1. I found this chart and the ones highlighting how more politically extreme parties have become particularly fascinating.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: