Americans: United or Divided? Hoover Fellow Dispels the Myth of the Culture War

Monday, October 11, 2004

Red states versus blue states, liberals versus conservatives, the list goes on and on. We are constantly reminded by the media that we are in the midst of a "culture war." Going against the prevailing view that Americans are more divided now than ever before, Hoover senior fellow and Stanford University political science professor Morris P. Fiorina argues that Americans are actually growing more similar, thanks to air travel and the Internet, which allow people to connect with one another.

"Parties, not people, have polarized," he said in his presentation, "The Myth of a Polarized America.," which he gave as the featured speaker at a Hoover Institution Breakfast Briefing on September 29 that was taped by CSPAN2's Book TV (go to for scheduling). He added that it's the elites and the leadership of the United States, not the voters, who have become polarized.

Drawing on material from his recent book Culture War: Myth of a Polarized Nation (Pearson Longman, 2004), cowritten with Samuel J. Abrams, Harvard University and Jeremy C. Pope, Stanford University, Fiorina presented an analysis showing that Americans are not deeply divided after all. Using data from a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Fiorina showed that Americans, whether they live in red or blue states, tend to differ very little in their views.

"The culture war frame attracts the media," Fiorina said. He added that the issues important to all Americans, such as health care, are overlooked, whereas peripheral issues, such as gun control and gay marriage, are featured by the media.

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