Does Church Attendance Reduce Political Polarization? Not among white conservatives – GetReligion
There are concepts in political science that have become impossible to ignore. Whether it’s leading a class discussion, talking to a member of the media, or just chatting with friends about the current state of the world, I can’t help but bring it all back to political polarization.
Put simply, it’s the idea that American society has become more politically tribalized, with Democrats huddled in the far left corner of the political spectrum and Republicans doing the same on the right side of the scale with a huge chasm between the two. And, both parties hate each other – not just disagreeing, but believing that if the other party wins an election, it will lead to the end of the Republic.
Compromise becomes impossible in a world in which you see the other side not only as bad, but also as the enemy. The inherent problem is that our democratic processes stop without a level of bipartisan support.
There has been a ton of excellent research done on measuring polarization level in the United States Congress using DW-NOMINATE scores. The results indicate that both parties have moved away from the center, but this is more pronounced among the GOP than among Democrats. This visual (it comes from this paper) is the one I use in class to show how bad it is.
But, I wanted to take a different approach here. I wanted to see how polarization is perceived by the average American, how it has changed over time, and how religion plays a role in this perception.
Here is how I did it.
Since 2012, the Cooperative Congressional Election Study has asked respondents a battery of questions that force them to place themselves on the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and themselves on an ideological scale ranging from 1 (very liberal) to 7 (very conservative). ), with the moderate option described as “in the middle of the road”. For my purposes, someone has a polarized view of the world if they describe either Democrats as “very liberal” or Republicans as “very conservative.” In essence, they are saying, “This political party cannot get more extreme.
Let’s take a longitudinal look to start, then take a look at what happened in 2019 (the last year for which data is available).
I divided the sample into four categories: those who say Democrats are very liberal, those who say Republicans are very conservative, those who say both things are true, and those who say neither one nor the other is not true. Then I followed these changes through sixteen religious traditions and six cycles of inquiry. Hi res / zoomable here.