Political Polarization and Ideological Silos

Last month, I reviewed Pew’s report entitled Political Polarization in the American Public and showed how it tracked with the growing polarization in Congress (https://pos.org/2014/06/polarization-showing-no-signs-of-narrowing/). Over the last decade, the number of consistent conservative and liberal Americans has nearly doubled – this blog post looks at how these Americans are isolating themselves in areas where others think more like they do.

From where they live and to who they want in their families, liberals and conservatives want to live in more and more homogenized areas. Three-quarters of Americans (75{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) who are consistently conservative on issues say they prefer to live in areas where “houses are larger and farther apart, with schools, stores and restaurants several miles away.” On the other side of the ideological spectrum, 77{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans who are consistently liberal on issues prefer to live in “houses that are smaller and closer together, with schools, stores and restaurants within walking distance.”

On top of this, half (50{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of all consistently conservative Americans say it is important for them to live in a place where most people share their political views, while 35{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of consistent liberals say the same. This de-facto segregation is in part a result of what Pew calls “ideological silos:” Americans are isolating themselves with people and into places that share their political views.

And, many ideological Americans also choose their friends, at least in part, by their political views. Nearly two-thirds (63{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of consistent conservatives and nearly half (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. Those in the DC bubble may have numerous friends on both sides of the aisle, but this is far rarer in other locations across the United States.

Taking this one step further, these consistent ideologues would be admittedly unhappy if their immediate family members married someone from across party lines. Thirty percent (30{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of consistent conservatives say they would be unhappy if a family member married a Democrat, while 23{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of consistent liberals would be unhappy if their family member married a Republican.

It is these consistent ideologues that drive the political conversation in the US – 69{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of consistent conservatives and 59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of consistent liberals discuss politics at least a few times a week. With these Americans discussing politics on such a regular basis, it should be no surprise that they want their neighbors, friends and family members to share their political beliefs.

Public Opinion Strategies