The Democrats and GOP ignore America’s massive political center at their own risk

By Kent R. Kroeger (October 9, 2020)

Graphic by Sagearbor (Used under the CCA-Share Alike 4.0 International license.)

The Data

For the following charts, I analyzed the American National Election Studies (ANES) 2019 Pilot Study, an internet-based survey of 3.000 U.S. adults conducted by YouGov.com from December 20–31, 2018. The data for the charts below are weighted to match national characteristics on gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, geographic region, and presidential candidate choice.

The Results

To facilitate this data presentation, I segmented the U.S. adult population into six policy clusters based on 43 attitudinal and policy-related questions in the ANES 2019 Pilot study and sorted these segments based on their relationship to respondents’ self-described ideology (see Figures 1a and 1b below). The policy clusters are as follows (from most supportive of Trump to least): Strong Conservative, Moderate Conservative, Center-Right, Center-Left, Moderate Liberal, and Strong Liberal.

  • Around 14 million Center-Left voters voted for Trump.
  • Around 4 million Moderate Liberals voted Third Party.
  • Around 4 million Strong Liberals voted Third Party.

Who is in the political center?

As Drutman found, categorizing the political center is not easy. They are a motley blend of various social backgrounds and attitudes. The center is far from homogeneous. But, according to data from the ANES 2019 Pilot Study, centrists do stand out from the other policy clusters across a number of key demographic measures.

The Democrats have been ceding the Center to the GOP

Arguably, at least since the 1990s, establishment leaders for both the Democrats and Republicans have eschewed compromise on their party’s core issues. For the Democrats, no issue is as central to the party’s ideology as abortion rights.

Final Thoughts

Let me preface my last comments on the American political center by emphasizing what is NOT meant by “making appeals to the political center.”

APPENDIX A:

Attitudinal and Policy Items used for Cluster Analysis

APPENDIX B:

Demographic Characteristics of Policy Segments

It should be noted that probability-based margin of error calculations with the ANES 2019 Pilot Study are not applicable given the non-probability sampling methods used to recruit the YouGov national online panel. If YouGov’s online panel had been selected on a probability basis, the effective sample size in the ANES 2019 Pilot Study (n = 2,453) would have a margin of error of ±2 percentage points at the total sample level.

I am a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion (You can contact me at: kroeger98@yahoo.com)

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