Does America have a “moderate middle” any more?

Maybe my sample isn’t projectable…
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I recently had a very encouraging experience when I went to one of my granddaughter’s cross-country running meets.

There were 20 Baltimore area teams … about 400 runners … most of whom had family & friends there to root them on … a very diverse group.

Everybody seemed to be having good family time … most adults were encouraging all the runners … regardless of their team affiliation, their speed and position or their race … no chatter about CRT or any other political hot buttons.

Everything seemed so normal.

When I told my story to some friends, they opined that there’s still a big group of people “in the middle” … far away from the loud extremist positions … more concerned about family life and community than political scuffling.

That meshed with my cross country experience but, of course, I had to get analytical …

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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 … more liberal values sort to the left … more conservative values sort to the right.

Here’s how America looked about 15 years ago … in 2004.

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Democrats clustered to the left (the light blue hump), Republicans clustered to the right (the red hump ).

The dark blue hump in the middle is the moderate middle … consisting of both Democrats and Republicans who shar similar values.

Back in 2004, both the Democratic and Republican humps peaked relatively close to the middle … and the moderate middle was sizable.

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Now, fast forward to 2017 — the latest Pew survey.

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

The distance between the peak in the Dem’ hump and the peak in the GOP’s hump widened.

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

So, the moderate middle substantially shrank.

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What has happened since 2017?

While Pew hasn’t published a directly comparable study since 2017, they did run a poll that asked whether the country is more or less divided before and after the pandemic.

The bottom line: Most people believe their society is now more divided than before the pandemic.

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Said differently, the moderate middle is continuing to shrink … and is being swamped by the the increasingly distanced partisan groups.

Apparently, my real life sample isn’t projectable.

That’s sad.

Maybe some day.

Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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Click here to see the complete evolution in the Pew graphic from 2004 to 2017 … with some situational commentary.

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