Rush Limbaugh, Al Franken, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Moore—from the shouting and the vilifying that permeates the airwaves, one would think that bitter and entrenched political divisions among Americans are ripping the country apart at the seams.
Research suggests otherwise.
According to a groundbreaking new book Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America most Americans stand in the middle of the political landscape, preferring centrist candidates from either party to the extreme partisans who often emerge from the primary process. It is the political parties and the media that have ignored this fact and distorted public perceptions.
Released today, July 15, by publisher Pearson Longman, the book is the work of highly respected researcher and author Morris P. Fiorina, professor of Political Science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution; along with Samuel J. Abrams, Harvard University; and Jeremy C. Pope, Stanford University.
According to Fiorina, who specializes in elections, public opinion and Congress, "increasingly, we hear politicians, interest group leaders, and assorted 'activists' speak half-truths to the American people. They tell us that the United States is split right down the middle, bitterly and deeply divided about national issues, when the truth is more nearly the opposite."
In Culture War? the authors explore the role of the political class—office-holders, activists, and pundits—in shaping the public face of American politics. Through data analysis, they show how the political class has distorted the reality of most Americans' actual views about the social, political and economic issues of the past 30 years.
Abortion, homosexuality, gender, religion—each of these controversial subjects is examined, and the authors' analysis leads to the surprising contrarian conclusion, that "on the whole, the views of the American citizenry look moderate, centrist, nuanced, ambivalent—choose your term—rather than extreme, polarized, unconditional [and] dogmatic."
Fiorina, Abrams and Pope are challenging the foundation upon which the American political machine is built and they may very likely change the way everyone thinks about the voting public.
"The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say that we all were entitled to our own opinions, but not to our own facts," said Fiorina. "This book uses simple facts to confront a distorted political debate in this country." Not satisfied with merely exposing the misconceptions, Fiorina also suggests possible solutions for reconciling the obvious discrepancy between what is and what is perceived to be. The final chapter of Culture War? titled, "How did it come to this and where do we go from here," offers insights on how to move forward with this knowledge and possibly improve the political machine.
With Culture War? Fiorina has painted for his fellow citizens "a picture of American politics that is very different from the one they see portrayed on their televisions and described in their newspapers and magazines," one that he hopes will be recognized by Americans as a more accurate reflection of their preferences and beliefs.
Culture War? is available at www.ablongman.com, ISBN: 0-321-27640-X. Chapter one of the book may be viewed HERE (PDF download).