Are Republicans Becoming Extremists? The Data Suggests the Exact Opposite

Authored by: Matt Palumbo

Who are the extremists in the Trump-era? A common narrative I keep seeing is that in the past two years, Republicans have gone completely off the rails (as if the Leftists making this argument thought highly of them in the first place). How common is it to see Republicans portrayed as the party of racists, xenophobes, Islamophobes, or whatever the newest of bigotry is? To give an extremely brief sampling of this argument:

  • “How did the Republican Party — once known as the party of ‘law and order’ — become a party that could provide space for lawbreakers and extremists, thugs and criminals, hoodlums and hate groups?” asked one column at CNN, which blamed Trump (who else?).
  • One headline from The Globe and Mail Reads “The Real Reason Donald Trump Got Elected? We Have a White Extremism Problem.” Apparently those white extremists couldn’t be bothered to vote against Obama, but banded together to thwart a white woman?
  • “A Political Historian Explains Why the Republicans’ Shift to the Extreme Right Could Backfire” reads one article at Quartz, which brands Trump’s Republican party as “poised to take the netherworld of alt-right white nationalism mainstream.”
  • “Yes, the Republican Party Has Become Pathological, But Why?” asks one headline at Vox, with the sub-headline “We’re not going to fix American democracy until we can explain why the GOP went crazy.”

Such headlines must be somewhat humorous to readers, who’ve seen countless displays of Trump Derangement Syndrome that would indicate the exact opposite. “Extremism” is relative to the opposing Party, and to Democrats it may feel like they’re moving further and further away ideologically from Republicans, but that’s only because they’re the ones moving.

The Pew Research Center published a study in October 2017 tracking the growing ideological divide in America since the 1990s. And the main finding? That while Republicans have moved a centimeter to the right, Democrats have moved a mile to the left. To dive into the other findings:

  • On a number of key issues, with the exception of environmental regulations, Democrats moved further to the left than Republicans moved to the right. In most cases, Republicans’ views remained relatively unchanged over the past two decades. It’s amusing to view clips of Democrat politicians espousing Trumpian rhetoric on the illegal immigration issue in prior years, but that’s hardly the only issue they’ve recently gone nuts on.

Yes, there was a magical point in time where even a near-majority of Democrats agreed that government regulation is harmful, and a majority agreed that government spending is wasteful. Long-gone are those days.

Here’s how it looks like the shift on all ten of those issues is amalgamated. As you can see, the line representing the average Republican’s views did move slightly to the right, but it practically stood still compared to the Democrats shift leftward.

  • There is a wider partisan gap on Trump’s job approval than any other President in the past six decades. As you can see, Republican approval of Trump is in line with other Republican Presidents, so this is exclusively due to opposition from the Left.

And the result of all this? Complete alienation of those who would otherwise vote Democrat. While millennials (correctly) have a reputation for leaning left, Democrats are ruining that for themselves, particularly among white millennials. While only about a third of millennials approve of Trump (as of June 2018), millennial support for Democrats has tanked over the past two years, from 55% to 46%, according to a Reuters poll. Republican support fell slightly from 28% to 27%.

Things get more interesting when they’re broken down by race, because it proves just how much the left’s embrace of identity politics has backfired and pushed away what used to be a reliable voting block for them, the white working class.

Today, as many white millennials support the Democrats as the Republicans (each 39%). Just two years ago, Democrats still had a 14% lead over Republicans among white millennials. The trends are even more pronounced among white male millennials. Today, this group favors the Republicans over the Democrats by a staggering 11%. In 2016, Democrats led white male millennials by 12%.

In other words, these millenials don’t necessarily even like Trump, but they’ve been so alienated by the left that it hasn’t dissuaded them from joining the GOP. That’s a 25 percentage point move in two years, which is nothing short of incredible. Republicans couldn’t have put together a better PR campaign themselves.

Identity politics has been deployed by the left in the past half-decade as an attempt to divide and conquer. So far, they’ve only figured out the “divide” part.

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