I came across an interview with Stephen Hawkins, the global director of research from More in Common, “an organization focused on building a more united America.” He shared the latest finding on the “perception gap” and “hidden tribes” in the country.
The basic premise “builds off of pretty robust academic literature into a subject that’s called false polarization, [which is] the idea that among people who are the most politically engaged, they tend to overestimate how extreme and how different and how ideological their political opponents are.”
He and his colleagues asked Democrats what they think Republicans believe on a number of key issues and then flipped it. “All we did was, we looked at the difference between what Republicans told us they actually think about these issues and what Democrats estimated that they would think on those same issues and vice versa.
“What we generated from that was something we call the perception gap, which is the difference between what people actually believe and what their political opponents estimate that they’ll believe.
“And the key headline from our study is that the more politically engaged people, the most active voters, the biggest donors, the biggest activists on each side tend to overestimate how extreme and how different their political opponents’ views are. And the people who are closer to the middle who are less politically engaged tend to have a better read on what their political opponents think.”
As an old political science major, I find this utterly fascinating. My gut tells me there’s some truth to this. I KNOW many of these people.
An Exhausted Majority
In the Hidden Tribes report, the More in Common finding suggests an Exhausted Majority who aren’t political centrists or moderates. “On specific issues, their views range across the spectrum. But while they hold a variety of views, the members are united in that:
“They are fed up with the polarization plaguing American government and society
“They are often forgotten in the public discourse, overlooked because their voices are seldom heard
“They are flexible in their views, willing to endorse different policies according to the precise situation rather than sticking ideologically to a single set of beliefs
“They believe we can find common ground”
I’ve said many times here that we should try reading websites or publications that do not fit with our usual point of view. The interview came from something called The Daily Signal, “brought to you by more than half a million members of The Heritage Foundation.”
The article/podcast was titled “Have You Talked to a Liberal Lately? You Might Have More in Common Than You Think” by Rob Bluey and Virginia Allen. Sometimes, you can find interesting information in unexpected places.