47 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 21, 2014
Our main argument is that ordinary Americans are increasingly polarized, but not in their policy preferences or their ideology. Decades of research suggest that ordinary Americans do not tend to hold their policy preferences strongly (Converse 1964) and are “innocent of ideology” to borrow Herbert McClosky’s (1964) wonderful turn of phrase. Looking for polarization in Americans’ policy preferences or their ideological predispositions is almost sure not to turn up much (but see Abramowitz 2010 on health care). Rather, our focus is on the effects of a very recent, but different, development in public opinion: the polarization of trust in government. This form of polarization is a central support to the gridlocked politics that contemporary Washington produces. The public did not create polarization in Washington, but it does allow it to persist.
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