Party Polarization In American Politics

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Party polarization in American politics is a phenomenon that has been pervading into American government for the last few decades. Simply put, the term refers to the ideological distance between the two parties within government growing farther and farther apart in Congress, which have various consequences on the American way of life. The causes of party polarization include historical demographic changes since the 1950s, external forces acting upon the public, as well as demographic changes. Possibly the most popular explanation for polarization in American congress is Southern Realignment, a term coined to describe the increasingly Republican southern White, and the disappearance of southern Democrats, particularly those who are more conservative.…show more content…
Voter income has become increasingly affiliated to ideological and party ID, with higher-income voters tending to be linked with Republicans, and lower-income voters leaning Democrat. The divide is significant enough that political scientists, namely Nolan McCarty in his book, Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches, have denoted popular theories for polarization (such as Southern realignment and religion) in favour of income as the primary reason. McCarty argues that the tendency for high-income Americans to side with the Republican Party reduces incentives for politicians to look for a middle ground when considering economic issues; therefore, less centrists are in government, and polarization between the two parties occur, with politicians growing farther apart on the ideological scale in order to satisfy the voting needs of the voters they have already captured (high-income for Republicans, and middle/low-income for Democrats). (McCarty et al.,…show more content…
Wealth allows for a college and postgraduate experience, which tends to make voters more liberal; ideologically, approximately one-sixths of voters classify themselves as liberals, but over a quarter of those who have a postgraduate education are liberals. The mid-2004 popularity poll of President Bush exemplifies the relationship between ideology and education, while half of all voters in the sample said they trusted him, less than a third of voters with a postgraduate education said the same, obviously implying that a vast majority of those with higher education did not support Bush’s conservative ideas. This relationship between education and income leads to a situation where there is a divide in ideology between those who have/ can afford higher education and those who cannot; interestingly, despite the generally higher-income population being linked with the Republican Party, the well-educated, who presumably also have a decent amount of wealth, are linked with the Democratic Party. As James Wilson mentions in his article, How Divided Are We, having a post-graduate education “seems to outweigh the effect of affluence.” The sensitive dynamic between wealth and education in determining partisanship encourages politicians to polarize in order to attract voters on their side of the political spectrum. (Wilson,
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