The Puzzle of Polarization: Why a “Moderate” American Public Elects Extreme Officeholders
33 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
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
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