“Ideology, Idiosyncrasy, and Instability in the American Electorate,” David Broockman, UC Berkeley

Event time: 
Wednesday, November 1, 2023 - 10:00am to 11:15am
Institution for Social and Policy Studies (PROS77 ), A002 See map
77 Prospect Street
New Haven, CT 06511
Event description: 


Abstract: At least since Converse (1964), scholars have debated to what extent Americans’ views on issues are stable, are moderate, and exhibit ideological constraint. These questions are crucial for understanding polarization and representation, such as to what extent swing voters hold centrist views on issues or are instead cross-pressured across issues; and to what extent the public supports extreme policies. We illustrate why these questions are linked and the need to address them simultaneously. To address these questions, we present a statistical model which estimates the share of individuals’ expressed views which can be explained by ideology, idiosyncrasy, and instability. In pilot data, we find that these explain roughly similar shares of the variation in Americans’ views, but that these shares vary meaningfully across people. We find that ideology is tightly linked to political knowledge, while idiosyncrasy – not instability – is most linked with expressing extreme views. Finally, we find that few voters who prior work characterizes as moderate have centrist views across most issues, but that they are rather largely cross-pressured, agreeing with each party—and sometimes being more extreme than either party—on different issues.

David Broockman is an Associate Professor at the Travers Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Broockman is the author of over three dozen peer-reviewed scholarly essays focusing on American politics. His research has overturned conventional wisdom regarding the nature, extent, and consequences of political polarization in the American public; how political campaigns can persuade voters; and how to have productive conversations to bridge divides and reduce prejudice.

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