The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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March 30, 2013

My View: Mainstream America is not conservative

David Broockman and Christopher Skovron, graduate students at Berkeley and Michigan, respectively, recently released research about people’s views on current policy issues, such as gay marriage, global warming and Obamacare.

They polled almost 2,000 state legislators and compared the results with polls taken within their respective districts. What they found was “a striking bias in politicians’ perceptions, particularly among conservatives,” who generally overestimate the conservatism of their constituents by 20 points.

In other words, they believe everyone thinks as they do.

In contrast, 70 percent of liberal candidates underestimate support for liberal positions among their constituents and consistently overestimate opposition to same-sex marriage and universal health care.

Conservative politicians are so biased, they concluded, that it raised the question of “epistemic closure,” defined as close-mindedness, ideological intolerance, and reliance on “pretend information” from Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, and Glenn Beck.

Norm Ornstein (AEI) and Thomas Mann (Brookings) earlier described the same phenomenon, observing that the GOP “is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; (and) unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science.”

Andrew Kohut, who served as president of both Pew Research and Gallup, recently described the Republican Party as “far beyond the mainstream.” What unites them, he said, is ideological resistance to President Obama’s policies, discomfort with the country’s changing demographics, and the conservative media.

Pew Research has found that 54 percent of staunch conservatives report that they regularly watch Fox News, which stokes their resentment against all those non-white people “taking over the country.” In addition, 1,600 of the 1,700 talk radio stations in the country are conservative, many of which broadcast Rush Limbaugh’s diatribes against women, minorities, immigrants, gays and liberals.

The same corporations and plutocrats that fund conservative media outlets also fund political propaganda mills — AEI, Heritage, Hoover, and CATO (which prefer the misleading term “think tanks”) — lobbyists, political action committees, endowed chairs and legislative drafting committees, such as ALEC, which churn out a steady stream of fact-challenged “studies” and polemics.

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