The partisan gap on abortion grew from 30 points in 2007 to 45 points in 2016, and a leftward lurch among Democratic voters was responsible for the bulk of the shift, according to a new survey released by Pew research center.
It’s an article of faith among academic political scientists and much of the media that polarization and gridlock is a Republican-driven phenomenon—that the GOP has moved dramatically to the right while Democrats have drifted only modestly to the left.
This view might be supported by esoteric academic metrics for Congressional voting patterns, and it holds in the real world when it comes to areas like tax policy. But on issues from same-sex marriage to public sector unionism to the minimum wage, it’s hard to deny that Democrats have moved away from the center more rapidly than the GOP.
To take another example that we have cited before: Republican views on immigration have not changed so much over the last 10 years. Meanwhile, Democratic support for immigration has soared, from 49 percent saying that immigrants “strengthen the country” in 2006 to 78 percent saying so today.
It’s easy for academics and journalists to repeat the conventional wisdom that GOP extremism has created polarization, because the distance between the views of GOP voters and the academic and journalistic class is indeed growing, especially on social issues. But like pre-Copernican astronomers, the experts might sometimes be confused as to the cause of the motion they are observing.