Busting Balz: Are Americans More Polarized?

… [Dan] Balz is correct that there has been a decline in cross-party voting. But, as Morris Fiorina has been arguing for some time … this is not necessarily evidence that rank-and-file voters are growing more polarized. Instead, it reflects what Fiorina calls “party sorting.” By this Fiorina means that a variety of trends (I will discuss these in a separate post) have produced national parties that are more ideologically homogeneous than they were even two decades ago. … As a result, faced with two increasingly homogeneous albeit more ideologically extreme choices among parties, moderate voters have less incentive to split their vote. …

In short, the evidence suggests the reason for the increase in party line voting among the rank and file that Balz cites is not that voters are more polarized – it is that their choices are. [cont.]

Matthew Dickinson, Middlebury College