It is clear that Americans believe our best years are behind us. Unless you’re in in the other half that says America’s best years lie ahead of us. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released the second helping of their poll results on political polarization in the American public. This release sorts respondents into a political typology, using cluster analysis, to help sort out commonalities among and between folks along the political spectrum.
On the Right (the old Blue-bloods/the new Red conservatives), Pew sifts the sort into three groups who generally support the Grand Old Party:
- Steadfast Conservatives: Socially conservative populists
- Business Conservatives: Pro-Wall Street, pro-immigrant
- Young Outsiders: Conservative on government, more libertarian on social issues
On the Left (the old Red socialists/the new Blue liberals), Pew again sifts out three groups, and adds skeptics in the middle to the Democratic coalition:
- Solid Liberals: Left-wing across the board
- Faith and Family Left: Racially & ethnically diverse, uncomfortable with social change
- Next Generation Left: Younger, liberal on social issues, less so on government
- Hard-Pressed Skeptics: Financially stressed and pessimistic
We’re familiar with the media stereotypes of Left and Right. Those fat-cat Republicans and those Old Hippie Democrats. But bury down into the data, again, and you find much more diversity and commonality between and among the typologies. Faith and Family liberals may agree more with Steadfast Conservatives on social issues, while Next Generation Left may actually find common ground with Business Conservatives on supporting entrepreneurship. And that doesn’t even count the Bystanders who, well, stand by and wonder what all the fuss is about.
While most of us go to great efforts to stay political neutral, or at least welcome all perspectives, it can help to remember no one interest group is likely to speak for “All Conservatives” or “All Liberals” in our communities. As well, even within the politically active respondents, less than half admitted to following public affairs most of the time—more on the ends of the spectrum, less in the middle.
We can’t just talk to the folks who show up. Life is more complicated than that.