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The Great Center-Right Delusion

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What’s driving American politics off a cliff? Racial hatred and the cynicism of politicians willing to exploit it play a central role. But there are other factors. And an opinion piece by Hertel-Fernandez, Mildenberger, and Stokes in today’s Times (which is actually social science, not opinion!) seems to confirm something I already suspected: misunderstanding of what voters want is distorting both political positioning and public policy.

What the authors of the piece show is that congressional aides grossly misperceive the views of their bosses’ constituents; this is true in both parties, but more so of Republicans. What they don’t point out explicitly is that with the exception of A.C.A. repeal, Democrats err in the same direction as Republicans, just less so. Specifically, both parties believe that the public is to the right of where it really is.

An aside on A.C.A. repeal: I wonder what’s really going on here. Lots of polling suggests that voters overwhelmingly want protection for pre-existing conditions and subsidies to help lower-income Americans afford insurance — that is, they want the substance of the A.C.A., even if they say they disapprove of the law. So I’d take this result with a grain of salt: Democrats may not be as wrong here as it appears.

Anyway, what I’d really like to see are comparable surveys of other groups — say, political analysts for major media organizations. Why? Because I suspect........

© The New York Times