Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Polarized Public?

Is the American electorate politically polarized, or just the elites? These competing hypotheses have been analyzed, the data tortured, the essays and journal articles written, and still we don't know for sure. But we're getting close to a consensus, I believe. This does matter because a polarized public is not necessarily a good thing when it comes to compromise and legislation -- although there is some suggestion that the more polarized people are, the more they learn.

Anyway, this essay at Real Clear Politics gets at the topic and is worth the read. It gets into ideological and partisan "sorting" and all kinds of cool stuff. Highly recommended.

Near the end the author, Jay Cost, cites and agrees with a previous study that argues:
Contemporary American politics is probably best described as polarized on the elite level and increasingly well sorted in the electorate.

Yup. Which leads to all kinds of interesting media content (polarized since media tend to be at the elite level) and a depressed news audience (pissed at elite polarized content?). News networks play to the most polarized in their political coverage, in part because only the polarized are still paying attention to the news, but we get into a chicken-and-egg thing here that I want to explore more on a later post.

No comments: