Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

Who's Making Us More Partisan? The Rich

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    Who are the most partisan, ideologically polarized people in politics? The rich.

    That's true of both parties, according to the new book, "The Unheavenly Chorus: Unequal Political Voice and the Broken Promise of American Democracy," from the political scientists Kay Schlozman, Sidney Verba and Henry Brady and published by Princeton University Press.

    For those worried about gridlock and partisanship in California and elsewhere, it's an academic book that's worth picking up.

    Among the most interesting sections of the book is when it breaks down why partisanship and polarization are on the rise. For most of the electorate, very little has changed, with Democrats and Republicans about as ideological and partisan as they were in previous generations.

    But at the top of both parties, the picture is different. Indeed, polarization seems to be a problem of the rich. In the top 20 percent by income of people of both parties, ideological polarization -- that is the Democrats moving left and the Republicans moving right -- has increased substantially, much more so than it has among others in the spectrum.

    Such polarization is blamed for gridlock and incivility and a lack of compromise. Which means that our broken politics may be another thing for which we came blame the rich.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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