Democrats Can Abandon the Center -- Because the Center Doesn't Exist

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Media Outlet: New York Magazine

Lee Drutman's voter study was referenced in a New York Magazine article about how Democrats should think about reaching voters with policy.

First, very few voters have uniformly liberal or conservative ideological views. Which is to say: Public opinion varies across more than one ideological dimension. There are a good number of people in America who support increasing Social Security benefits and banning Muslims from immigrating to the United States. Which shouldn’t be surprising, given that there is no inherent contradiction between those two beliefs. In fact, a recent study of the 2016 electorate by political scientist Lee Drutman found that most social/racial conservatives in the United States have broadly liberal economic views....
....When pundits implore Democrats not to abandon the center, they do not typically mean that the party should embrace legal weed, much higher taxes on the rich, and mass deportation. More often, such pundits call on Team Blue to embrace a combination of moderate fiscal conservatism, a cosmopolitan attitude toward globalization, and moderate social liberalism — in short, to become the party of Michael Bloomberg (minus, perhaps, the enthusiasm for nanny-state public-health regulations). The former New York mayor is routinely referred to as a centrist in the mainstream press, despite the fact that his policy commitments — support for Social Security cuts, Wall Street deregulation, mass immigration, and marriage equality — when taken together, put him at the fringes of American public opinion: In Drutman’s study, the percentage of the electorate that held right-of-center views on economic matters — and left-of center ones on “identity” issues — was 3.8 percent.

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Lee Drutman is a senior fellow in the program on political reform at New America. He is the author of The Business of America is Lobbying (Oxford University Press, 2015).