Wednesday, June 20, 2012

America Grows Apart

Liberals have been selling the notion, recently, that the Republican Party is growing more and more extreme.  E.J. Dionne, Jr. has argued that Republicans have been moving out to the individualist extreme, leaving community behind.

Now the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press has come out with its Trends in American Values: 1987-2012, and reports that the gulf between the parties is increasing.  Probably the biggest change is on Environment.  Back in 1987 there was a 5 point difference between Democrats and Republicans on the environment.  Today it is 33  points.  On Governmnent Scope and Performance the gap used to be 6 points; now it is 33 points.  On Social Safety Net it used to be 23  points; now it is 41 points.

Propping up E.J.'s argument, the gap has increased mainly because fewer Republicans (and to a lesser extent, Independents) believe that the "government should take care of people who can't take care of themselves" and that "there needs to be stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment."  In other words, Republicans have moved away from the New Deal and Sixties consensus.  Why?  Well, I expect that if you asked a Republican she'd say that the government can help take care of people who can't take care of themselves.  But after a point the government makes things worse rather than better.  Oh and by the way, the global warming movement is a scam.

But wait, you say. What about that female Republican?  Isn't the Republican Party the party of dead white males?  Er, no.  Here's an interesting take from the Pew poll.  In 2012 Republicans are 50% male and 50% female.  Almost perfectly representative of Americans as a whole.  It is the Independents and the Democrats that are unbalanced on gender.  Democrats are 41% male and 59% female, about the same as currently graduating college students.  But Independents are 55% male and 45% female.  Who would have thought it?

Overall, Independents tend to be economically conservative and socially liberal.  So that might explain why President Obama is in such a pickle this year.  Independents this year are not too exercised about social issues, but they are certainly interested in economic issues.

Pew compares "swing" voters ("either undecided, only lean toward a candidate, or favor a candidate but say there is still a chance they will change their minds") with Obama and Romney voters.  Their attitudes tend to be right in the middle between the partisan voters, but tend a little more towards Obama voters than Romney voters--except on the Social Safety Net, Immigration, and Government Responsiveness.

It is interesting that the Pew survey does not really ask questions about middle-class entitlements.  If they did, I wonder what they would find?  Pew asks questions about health care and finds that people are more concerned in 2012 about too much government in health care than in 2009 (with Democrats not concerned).  And of course everyone agrees with the motherhood-and-apple-pie notion that "the government needs to do more to make health care affordable and accessible."

But remember the big takeaway.  It's about Republicans.  Yes, they are certainly as white as a picket fence, but they are not male.  It's a 50-50 splitsville between male and female in RepublicanLand.  And don't you forget it.

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