Has The American Public Polarized?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
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istock

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With the presidential campaigns well under way, talk of polarization once again fills the air. Although Americans think that polarization has increased, that is a misperception. By the standard definition of polarization—the middle loses to the extremes—there is no evidence of increasing polarization among the public at large. In addition to this reassuring negative finding about polarization, current research also allays fears that Americans will segregate themselves into “ideological silos” in which they only receive political news compatible with their preexisting positions. A succeeding essay will discuss the process of party sorting, which is often confused with polarization. Sorting clearly is occurring and has significant negative effects on our politics.


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