by Donna Martinez
Former Senior Writer and Editor, John Locke Foundation
The latest from Pew Research is an interesting look at how U.S. adults view the Democrat and Republican parties. Both are seen as holding positions that are ‘too extreme’ by about six in 10 adults. (see chart).
The real question for me is what that phrase means to the person being polled.
Does ‘too extreme’ reflect a reasoned assessment of a policy position? Say, for example, a free-marketer who doesn’t like the idea of Republicans endorsing tariffs? Or, for example, a fiscally conservative Democrat who doesn’t like the out-of-control spending endorsed by her party?
Or, is ‘too extreme’ simply a hyperbolic description of a policy position the person polled happens to disagree with?
Obviously, it’s different for each person, but I suspect the latter is the case for a lot of folks. It would be a reflection of the heated rhetoric that is all too common these days.
It’s the second question (see chart) that troubles me more. We’re in really sad shape when about one in three adults don’t think either major party ‘governs in an honest and ethical way’ at all. That kind of cynicism is a cancer on our republic, and it leads to the data (see chart) revealed in the third question.
Roughly one in four U.S. adults don’t think either major party ‘respects the the country’s democratic institutions and traditions’ at all.
So what does this data stew mean for the new Biden administration? The results from Pew show more than half of U.S. adults — 52% — say they are ‘not at all’ or ‘not too’ confident that President Biden can unify our country. Troubling.