A Polarized American Populace

A new poll from the Pew Research Center suggests that the most engaged Americans are highly polarized, disagreeing on nearly every issue and opposed to compromise. According to the results, even the majority of Americans whose political beliefs don't align directly with the left or the right are ideologically strict in their positions. For instance, post-moderns, who make up 13% of the population, believe in a limited social safety net and tend to blame African-Americans for problems in the black community, but are also very socially liberal in terms of religion and homosexuality.

As Tim Rutten at the Los Angeles Times points out, media consumption informs the ideological divisions between the left and the right. Liberals tend to consume news from sources such as NPR, CNN and The New York Times, while conservatives tend to get their news from sources such as Fox News.

There are, however, reasons to doubt the thesis put forth by the Pew Research Center. While Americans may give strong responses to opinion surveys, research suggests that however strongly they express their opinions, those opinions are rather superficial. Political science literature typically suggests that when asked more than once, respondents fail to give the same response to basic ideological questions. Many believe that Americans don't have strong opinions and respond nearly at random when asked for their political opinions.

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