by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The More in Common project has just released the results of its latest deep dive into American polarization, and they make for a deeply discouraging read.
It turns out that most Americans have fundamentally mistaken notions about their political opponents, consistently believing that they are substantially more extreme than they really are. For example, Democrats are far less likely to support open borders, far more likely to support private ownership of firearms, and far more friendly to police than Republicans believe they are. Republicans support controlled immigration far more than Democrats believe, and an overwhelming majority believe that racism and sexism still exist in the United States.
At one level, these conclusions are hardly surprising. After all, previous research has shown that Democrats and Republicans have wildly false notions of the demographic make-up of the opposing party. …
… But the More in Common survey is different, and disturbing: It shows that political ignorance about the opposing party is driven by America’s most engaged and (at least on the left) most highly educated citizens. In other words, the more you pay attention to political media, the less likely you are to understand the true beliefs of your political opponents.
The survey found that “the most partisan, politically active Americans – a group we call the ‘Wings’ – have deeply distorted perceptions of the other side.” Crucially, “politically disengaged” Americans were “fully three times more accurate in their estimates of political opponents” than those on the right and left edges of American politics.