Friday, June 5, 2009

The Partisan Divide

Are Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, dogs and cats, really growing further apart? Some new Pew Center numbers certainly suggest this is the case -- well, not for dogs and cats, but yes for political beliefs. Look at the graph to the right, hot linked from the Pew site. And especially look at the methodological info below. Over 22 years, 48 values, trended for your ease and enjoyment.

Pretty damn telling.

The full report is broader, more comprehensive, and worth the read. It'll be depressing at times for Republicans, but take to heart the fact the data here do not go as far back as the 1970s and post-Watergate. Other data sources, such as ANES, do so, and you'll see this is all cyclical. If you look at this graph, for example, you'll see the 1970s drop and another when Clinton was elected.

The Pew report is something special because it goes beyond attitudes about political parties and gets into the stuff of what people know and think about the important issues of the day. Section 4 on religious beliefs is a personal favorite because I do research in that area. Section 11 discusses the partisan gaps, if that's more your thing. Finally, section 8 examines political participation

I will explore this report in more detail as the week progresses because it is full of good stuff.


Concerned Citizen said...

You know as well as I do that statistics can show whatever the publisher of the data wants. Just pick up a USA Today and try to make sense of the percentages and statistics they publish. For the most part they are crap. To truly understand the numbers you present one would need to see the actual data and the conditions under which it was collected. Statistics may be OK for showing trends over time, such as this, but that is provided the data, calculations and presentation are consistent thoughout the period. Statisticly this happens in only a small percentage of the time. ;-)

Hollander said...

You clearly underestimate the professionalism of the Pew Center staff and the pros they have who do these surveys. As someone who suffered through four graduate statistics courses and who uses stats all the time, I know these surveys are the real thing.

And you can see the actual data. Six months after a report, download it yourself and crank up a serious data crunching package like SPSS or SAS, and have at it.