I read this article about the results of a national survey, and found myself annoyed by unthinking acceptance of what people say about their views, rather than what they do. That’s an intrinsic problem of polls, though, and it’s bad when it’s not recognized.
It’s arguing that Democrats and Republicans don’t understand each other. First problem: the two parties are a pair of granfalloons, associations that are mostly meaningless. The author is arguing that we ignore the diversity within each group and don’t understand the values of the other, but part of the problem is that the premise asks that we regard these as real divisions, and then chastises the participants for generalizing opinions of Democrats and Republicans.
In a surprising new national survey, members of each major American political party were asked what they imagined to be the beliefs held by members of the other. The survey asked Democrats: “How many Republicans believe that racism is still a problem in America today?” Democrats guessed 50%. It’s actually 79%. The survey asked Republicans how many Democrats believe “most police are bad people”. Republicans estimated half; it’s really 15%.
The survey, published by the thinktank More in Common as part of its Hidden Tribes of America project, was based on a sample of more than 2,000 people. One of the study’s findings: the wilder a person’s guess as to what the other party is thinking, the more likely they are to also personally disparage members of the opposite party as mean, selfish or bad. Not only do the two parties diverge on a great many issues, they also disagree on what they disagree on.
Wait. You’re asking people to “guess as to what the other party is thinking,” and you don’t realize the fundamental flaws in what you’re doing? You’re asking people to read the minds of a diverse organization, and are surprised that they fail at that impossible task? It’s wrong in so many ways.
When a Democrat guesses that 50% of Republicans think racism is a problem, they’re being charitable, because while we can’t read minds, we can see what the Republican party stands for, how their policies affect the country, and what the leadership says, and the Republican party is a flamingly racist organization led by openly racist politicians.
Likewise, when the Republicans say 50% of Democrats don’t trust the police, they’re also being generous, because if you read the news (which is also biased in its reporting), all you see are stories of police murdering people and not being held accountable; you should think the police are bad people, given what evidence we see in the news.
Of course, this problem is compounded by the fact that the survey is asking respondents to treat Republican and Democrat as discrete and uniform organizations. We know that isn’t true.
That’s what drives me crazy about this report. You’re a bad person for not knowing what individuals believe about the country, but you’re asked to categorize a broad group in your answer. The author reports one of her own experiences.
But one man I talked with – someone raised on a sugar plantation, retired from a life-long career in oil, a proud member of the Louisiana Tea Party and a Trump supporter – grinned broadly at the mention of Bernie Sanders. “Free college? Free medical care? How yawl going to pay for that? He’s a pie in the sky guy,” he said. “But he’s a good man, Uncle Bernie.” Although an oil worker, he was a fan of clean energy, and liked the idea of a Manhattan Project to implement it.
Among Republicans, he isn’t alone. Despite the president’s denial of the climate crisis, national polls recently conducted by researchers at Yale, Stanford and Monmouth Universities show that a majority of voters in both parties now agree on many actions to mitigate it.
Aaargh. I’m supposed to know what a retired oil worker in Louisiana thinks, but you’re asking about the Republican party as a whole? What I’ll use to judge the party as a whole is their actions: they elected a climate change denying president, and they’re implementing policies, such as a 30% tariff on solar panels, and then they’re claiming to be a fan of clean energy in their mind. I must be bad at mind-reading.
That this one guy think Bernie Sanders is a “good guy” is somehow supposed to mitigate the actions of the elected officials of the Republican party, and especially Trump, is galling. OK, I’ll appreciate that random individuals in the Republican party are capable of paying lip service to one value while voting against it.
I also have to ask…how y’all going to pay for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on the military?