Raw Data: It’s Elites Who Drive Polarization, Not the Working Class


Who’s responsible for increasing political polarization? Andrew Gelman suggests that one of the “cleanest pieces of evidence” is public attitudes toward abortion. If you look at the polling data, what you see is that attitudes between Democrats and Republicans start to diverge markedly around 1990. If you dig a little deeper, you find that the change is almost entirely among whites. If you dig a little deeper among whites, you get this:

The biggest change in party polarization on abortion appears among those with mid to high incomes; those with college degrees; and those who are heavily tuned into politics. Among the fabled blue-collar whites, party ID doesn’t really predict attitudes on abortion very well at all.

Gelman avoids drawing any broad conclusions from this, and so will I. But it’s interesting, especially since we’ve seen lots of evidence like this before. It’s elites who have largely turned our major parties into polarized war zones, not the heartland.

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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