The Left in recent years has intensified the narrative that the Right has shrunk in numbers while becoming more extreme in its ideology. The Left sees its own collectivist approaches to organizing society as having become the ideological lingua franca of most Americans. As evidence of this, the growth of the country’s self-declared independents is cited. And the conclusion from this line of thinking is that main street America is much more homogeneous in its liberal outlook today than are their representatives in Washington – in short, Washington is polarized while America in the aggregate is not.
William A. Galston, senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institute, begs to differ with this view which he expounds in ‘Americans Are as Polarized as Washington’. There he cites recent research by Alan Abromowitz (Emory University political scientist) and the Gallup polling organization that party loyalty has intensified greatly in the last 40 years. Putting a finer point on it, Drs Galston and Abromowitz agree that during this polarization on the role of government the Right has moved a bit more to the right than has the Left to the left, this according to self-declarations on the seven point scale used by the American National Election Studies (here and here). However, the picture is more complicated because on social and cultural issues the Left has moved more to the left, than has the Right to the right. In any case, the split between the two sides has widened markedly since 1972 when Great Society programs had kicked in and Vietnam protests were a constant in the public square.