Measuring the Persuadable Partisan
America is divided.… The loyalties of American
voters are now almost perfectly divided be-
tween the Democrats and Republicans, a
historical political deadlock that inflames the
passions of politicians and citizens alike.…
This produced the vivid maps of America,
divided between the red Republican states and
the blue Democratic ones.
—Stanley B. Greenberg, The Two Americas
FOLLOWING THE RAZOR-CLOSE presidential elections in 2000 and 2004, many political observers concluded that American voters are deeply divided by ideology and partisanship. The red and blue electoral maps from these elections have been interpreted as a depiction not only of the election outcomes but also of the opinions and attitudes of the American public. As the common stereotype goes, the blue states— won by Democrat John Kerry in 2004—are composed of latte-sipping, NPR-listening, Hollywood-loving liberals who are threatening the fabric of society with their advocacy of gay marriage and abortion rights. In contrast, the red states—won by Republican George Bush—are comprised of gun-totin', NASCAR racin', Bible-thumpin' conservatives who care only about Christian values at the expense of tolerance, equality, and civil liberties. Commentator George Will remarked that the 2004 presidential election “continues—and very nearly completes—the process of producing a perfect overlap of America's ideological and party parameters.”1
Certainly, ideological polarization is apparent among contemporary partisan elites—Democrats and Republicans in Congress are more consistently opposed to each other on legislation, the party platforms are more ideologically extreme, and party activists are more polarized across a variety of policy issues.2 There remains considerable scholarly debate about the degree and extent of a culture war in the American
1 George F. Will, “America's Shifting Reality,” Washington Post, 4 November 2004, A25.
2 For overview see Layman et al., “Party Polarization in American Politics.”