America’s Most Educated, Engaged Citizens Are Making Politics Worse

David French:

It turns out that most Americans have fundamentally mistaken notions about their political opponents, consistently believing that they are substantially more extreme than they really are. For example, Democrats are far less likely to support open borders, far more likely to support private ownership of firearms, and far more friendly to police than Republicans believe they are. Republicans support controlled immigration far more than Democrats believe, and an overwhelming majority believe that racism and sexism still exist in the United States.

At one level, these conclusions are hardly surprising. After all, previous research has shown that Democrats and Republicans have wildly false notions of the demographic make-up of the opposing party. Democrats think Republicans are older, richer, and more Evangelical than they really are. Republicans think Democrats are more secular, black, and gay than they really are.

And more broadly, surveys showing civic ignorance are squarely in the dog-bites-man category. Spend nine seconds on Google, and you can find depressing studies that show “more than half of Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court justice” or more Americans know that Randy Jackson was a judge on American Idol than know John Roberts is the chief justice of the United States.