Everybody, sorry I’ve been out of touch all day. I had to go out of town unexpectedly today, and have been away from the keys. One of the nice things about this blog is when I don’t post when people think I should, folks start writing to ask if I’m okay. Some good news: in February, this here blog received over one million unique visitors — the twelfth month in a row we’ve done this. Overall, TAC had another great month as well. Thank you!
Here’s a fascinating story from The Atlantic: a map of American political prejudice. Guess where researchers found that the most politically prejudiced people live, and who they are? Read on:
In general, the most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves. This finding aligns in some ways with previous research by the University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz, who has found that white, highly educated people are relatively isolated from political diversity. They don’t routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents. (In fact, people who went to graduate school have the least amount of political disagreement in their lives, as Mutz describes in her book Hearing the Other Side.) By contrast, many nonwhite Americans routinely encounter political disagreement. They have more diverse social networks, politically speaking, and therefore tend to have more complicated views of the other side, whatever side that may be.
We see this dynamic in the heat map. In some parts of the country, including swaths of North Carolina and upstate New York, people still seem to give their fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt, even when they disagree. In other places, including much of Massachusetts and Florida, people appear to have far less tolerance for political difference. They may be quicker to assume the worst about their political counterparts, on average.
White, highly educated people are the most politically intolerant in the entire country. These are the people who congregate in Boston, New York, and Washington. I would love to see the demographic breakdown of who the decision-makers in major-media newsrooms are, as well as in other US institutions. We know from other demographic data that the more educated you are, the more likely you are to be liberal.
Look at this finding: “the most politically intolerant county in America appears to be Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which includes the city of Boston.” Here’s a map of Suffolk County:
Cambridge, home of Harvard University, is in neighboring Middlesex County. According to the researchers, it is equally as prejudiced as Suffolk County. So the most elite university in America is also located in the county that is most prejudiced — in this case, against Republicans.
How about that? Mercer County, NJ (home of Princeton) and New Haven County, CT (home of Yale), are also “considerably more prejudiced” against Republicans than most other counties in the US.
Note well: it is also the case that Republicans who live in these same counties are highly prejudiced against Democrats. But they are small minorities in those places.
If you are an educated liberal in a major US city like Boston, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia, you are unlikely to know and deal with Republicans. The cultural and political establishments in those cities are quite liberal. Interestingly, the partisan polarization in other cities is equally strong. In Dallas, Houston, and Austin, both sides are strongly prejudiced against the other; the establishments in all three cities, though, are Democratic. Most people outside Texas don’t realize that. Note too that the entire state of Florida scores strongly on the polarization scale. I found it fascinating that except for the heavily populated counties around NYC, the State of New York is pretty much the least politically polarized state in the US.
More from the article:
As politics have become more about identity than policy, partisan leanings have become more about how we grew up and where we feel like we belong. Politics are acting more like religion, in other words.
This is partly because partisan identities have begun to line up with other identities, as Lilliana Mason describes in her book, Uncivil Agreement. Making assumptions about people’s politics based on their race or religiosity is easier than it was in the past. Black people get typed as Democrats; people who go to church on Sunday are assumed to be Republicans. (But as always, stereotypes still mask complexity: about half of black Americans go to church at least once a week, for example, a far higher rate than that of white Americans.)
In other words, partisan prejudice now includes a bunch of other prejudices, all wrapped up into one tangled mess. “Americans are really divided, but not in terms of policy; they’re divided in terms of identity,” Mason says. “And the more identities come into play, the more salient they are, the harder it will be to agree, even if policy positions shift.” Politics are becoming a proxy battle for other deep divisions that have almost nothing to do with environmental regulation or tax policies. [Emphasis mine — RD]
Read the whole thing. It’s worthwhile, though nothing about it is encouraging. What stood out the most to me, though, is that the people who are in charge of the media, and our cultural institutions, and the ones who bang on the most about “diversity,” are pretty much extremely intolerant, monocultural white liberals. Whatever else you might say about him, Trump has these people figured out.
UPDATE: Wow, wow, wow. You’ve got to read the companion piece about Watertown, NY, judged by the Atlantic’s researchers as the most politically tolerant county in America. Trump won it by 20 percent, but that’s not why it’s the most tolerant. Excerpt:
As is the case anywhere else in the world, demonization eventually bends toward violence. Already, nearly 20 percent of Democrats and Republicans say that many members of the other side “lack the traits to be considered fully human,” according to a 2017 survey by the political scientists Nathan Kalmoe and Lilliana Mason. Even more chilling: About 15 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of Democrats agree that the country would be “better off if large numbers of opposing partisans in the public today ‘just died.’”
I cannot imagine thinking this! But a lot of people do. More:
The most politically prejudiced people in America right now don’t seem to be the most vulnerable ones. The PredictWise analysis showed that the most judgmental partisans tend to be white, urban, older, highly educated, politically engaged, and politically segregated. And the inverse is also true, which explains why the Watertown area stands out. It’s a very white place, but it’s also fairly young, largely suburban and rural, and not particularly highly educated.
The story about Watertown is really interesting, especially for the light it sheds on how social media ramps up division. Watertown is not perfect, though. I laughed out loud at this quote from an angry conservative woman who laid into her liberal pastor.
When I spoke with Walker, now 91, she remembered the incident well. “I said to him, ‘I am not going to church and having you preach to me what’s right and wrong,’” she told me.
Um, Mrs. Walker, you’re missing the point of church. Anyway, please read the whole story, especially to the end. It involves Mrs. Walker, and it’s a punch in the gut.