Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Teabaggers are Noisy But Out of Step with America

The media has a lemming-like quality about it when it comes to covering events. It is easier to stoke a meme, and ignore opposing evidence, than to engage in real journalism. The infatuation with the teabaggers, at least as an inexpensive story with which to pummel viewers, is instructive. It seems safe, others are covering it too, and, besides, good journalistic research is expensive. The networks are all profit-oriented, so growing their bottom line is the real objective.

Obviously there are overt political agendas as well. So it is inevitable that teabaggers are going to get coverage and credibility. What does not get aired much is the research that shows how out of touch teabaggers are with most of America.

Right, just the opposite of what FoxNews wants you to believe. Two studies have emerged that show that most Americans support government programs, and would like to see support continue, increase, or in some cases, redirected, but not eliminated. Project Voter has released an extensive survey that reveals not only starkly differing views on attitudes towards government, but also how unrepresentative teabaggers are in social and demographic terms.

The Washington Post has also just published a survey that reaches similar conclusions. The study, done in conjunction with the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, does reveal that many Americans are conflicted about government, but want it to help solve problems more effectively.

Inconsistent positions on policy are quite common with self-described teabaggers. The Republican or conservative bravado appeals to the identity of many of them. But asked to delineate specific policy preferences, and not just platitudes, and they suddenly take on positions more like mainstream liberals. Now that is enough to make their heads explode. There are complex reasons why this is so, and it is well-documented by political scientists and psychologists who study political identity and behavior. For some background on this, replete with more surveys, see Paul Rosenberg's revealing piece on how he came to understand the centrality of identity politics for conservatives here.

Points to the WaPo for the study, but I'm guessing others will mostly ignore it.

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