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I find this research from Pew really interesting, as it tries to segment voters beyond a one-dimensional political spectrum.  Segmentation can produce meaningful results, but it can also be misinterpreted.  For instance, consider this chart:

To say that Democrats agree on the second point is entirely untrue.  Based on the data, roughly three quarters of Democrats hold one view while a quarter of Democrats hold the opposite view.  The fact that three particular segments have similar proportions in each camp is not evidence of agreement; it merely says that the segments Pew defined fail to explain the divergence of opinion.

Overall, though, the study looks great and I’d check it out in full.

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One Comment

  1. I’ve thought about this too. I think that it’s still worthwhile to say that people agree on the second point. The main reason is that people will answer questions differently on different days of the year. If you poll me an ideological question 365 times, I will not always answer it the same way, just based on my mood.

    For example, if I’m in a disagreeable mood, I might take a nuanced look at the question “Our country needs to continue making changes to give blacks equal rights” and think, “Why just blacks? Why not all minorities? And aren’t there policies that we know are bad, and we haven’t fixed them? And aren’t they already legally the same under the law?” I might say “no.” But if I’m thinking abstractly, I might say, “Yes, of course, equal rights are a noble goal, and if we find a place wherre they’re unequal, we should go after it.”

    So, I tend to look at that 77% as “how many times would I say ‘yes’ to that question?” Very Buddhist idea; maybe you’re a fan.


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  1. […] the way to think about problems.  I’m specifically interested in how philosophy of science, statistics, and rhetoric shape the way we think.  Another purpose has been to identify which world problems […]

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