Maybe there is a political middle…

In the old days it was called the “silent majority”

yesterday, we reprised a post: America’s political polarization in 3 charts …

That analysis ended in 2014 … showing a double-humped distribution that had been separating over the past decade or so.



New data is now available, so let’s advance the picture to 2017

Source: WaPo analysis of Pew data


The humps have spread further apart … indicating sharper polarization.

The peaks are higher … especially the one on the left,

Also, note the vanishing middle (the dark blue on the graphic).

Now, let’s drill down another level…


Pew extended their analysis this year to classify respondents as “politically active” if they vote regularly, attend campaign rallies, donate to candidates, etc.

In rough numbers, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the vote-eligible population gets tagged politically active.

OK, let’s look at how the the 2017 numbers change when we just look at the politically actives


Note shape changes.

The polar peaks spread further apart and they get even higher.

The Dem peak is pegged at the far left liberal extreme.

The GOP peak is right of center, but falls off before getting to the extreme far right.

Most important, note the distinctive u-shape to the curve … the vanishing middle.

Bottom line: the politically actives drive the polarization … swamping the politically-active middle-of-the-road folks


What about the politically inactive folks (1/2 to 2/3s of the vote-eligible population)?

Pew doesn’t give the specific numbers, but we can get a sense of the politically inactive folks by simply flipping the chart and remembering the classic ‘musician or woman’ illusion.



Specifically, focus on the white part of the flipped chart. By definition, those are the folks who are politically inactive.


Note the white shape’s more normal (bell-shaped) distribution.

Those are the folks who aren’t glued to cable news, who don’t hyperventilate over each twist and turn in the news cycle, who don’t break down Senators’ doors, who don’t stop traffic – threatening drivers and  vandalizing cars, who dismiss radicals as, well, radicals.

They’re the people in the middle.

And, maybe there are enough of them to represent a new “silent majority”.



Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

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