America’s political polarization in 4 charts …

It’s no secret that American politics has become increasingly – and maybe, irreversibly – polarized.

Obama is hitting the campaign trail for Biden.

I expect that Obama will lay blame for the political polarization on Trump and his band of ignorant deplorables.

In anticipation, let’s look at some inconvenient facts and put them in perspective…


Way back in 2014, Meet the Press host Chuck Todd observed:

Polarization is no longer just polluting the system — it’s paralyzing it.

The deepening divide between the right and the left has largely hollowed out the center of American politics.

Gone are the politicians who once occupied the large “middle” and the voters who once gravitated to them.

Todd’s observations were true then, and they’re true now.


The Pew Research Center has tracked party identity and ideology for decades.

One way they do it is by scoring the Republicans and Democrats on a 10-item scale of political values.

Based on the latest Pew data (from 2017), here’s where we stand:



What the chart means …

Democrats cluster to the left, Republicans cluster to the right.

Less than 10 percent in each party overlaps ideologically with the other side.

That’s where we are.

How did we get here?


Let’s add some historical perspective …

10 years ago, there was a divide, too, but the distance between the peaks was relatively small.


Put another way…

In 1994, a couple of years into the Clinton presidency, Pew found that 36 percent of Republicans were more liberal than the median Democrat … and 30% of Democrats were actually more conservative than the median Republican.

The blue and red curves pretty much blended together … with a big clump of folks in the center.


Then came the Bush years.

Many pundits claim that Bush forged the great divide.

But, the facts are to the contrary.


By midway through the Bush presidency, the ideological peaks had converged even closer.

The biggest area of the chart is the dark blue section … which indicates the a very middle of-the road America.


Now, let’s advance the calendar and look at 2014.

By the 6th year of the Obama presidency, each side moved further to their extremes .

Less than 10 percent in each party overlapped ideologically with the other side.

Here’s where we were in 2014.



Now, let’s look at what happened between 2014 and 2017 (Pew’s latest survey)…


Note that the dark blue “middle of the road” has shrunk.

The red section flattened a bit … with more conservatives moving to the middle.

But, the light blue section has moved to the left (away from the middle) … with a peak moving further to the left.

The data only covers part of the first year of the Trump administration so, for the most part, it’s the legacy that Obama left for Trump.

So, Obama may want to look in a mirror before he starts laying all the blame on Trump.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: