The Puzzle of Polarization: Why a “Moderate” American Public Elects Extreme Officeholders

33 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2014

Date Written: 2014

Abstract

The American public is often portrayed as collectively moderate and increasingly alienated by the trend toward greater elite polarization. However, this ostensible mass preference for political centrism does not lead to particularly strong levels of electoral support for moderate incumbents in Congress. In fact, moderates in both the House and the Senate have become less likely to win reelection since the 1970s. I explore several possible explanations for this trend, concluding that reforms designed to increase the supply of moderate candidates, even if successful, are unlikely to reverse the trend towards greater polarization.

Keywords: polarization, moderates, ideology, parties, Congress

Suggested Citation

Hopkins, David A., The Puzzle of Polarization: Why a “Moderate” American Public Elects Extreme Officeholders (2014). APSA 2014 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2451615

David A. Hopkins (Contact Author)

Boston College ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

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