The social sciences are sometimes looked down upon by those who practice so called hard science, such as physics or chemistry, as being something of a pseudo-science. Granted, I may be biased as I majored in political science myself, but the what makes it an actual science is the adherence to tested statistical methodologies. These methodologies can become corrupted due to partisanship, cronyism in academia, or working backwards from an ideological conclusion to cherry pick that data you like.
This was recently exposed to an extreme degree by a group that submitted hoax papers to academic journals on topics such as the penis being a social construct or why heterosexual men like to eat at Hooters. It was an attempt to lampoon how ridiculous these journals had become, how partisan and biased they are, and how these journals are really engaging in so-called “grievance studies.”
That said, a new study called Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Political Landscape clearly lays out the data it collected, how it collected it, and what the data shows. The results may be surprising to many, considering the aforementioned polarization along with the impression we often are left with from the mainstream and social media. The report concludes that most Americans are decent folks deep down, but are fed up with political correctness in our culture.
The perception many of us have come to have is that America now consists of tribes. On one hand we have the Woke, a group of purple-haired teenage girls with wealthy parents paying the way for them to force the most aggressive social justice agenda down the throats of another tribe, the red-MAGA-hat-wearing middle-aged tribe, who is scared to death of social change, and racist to the core.
As the report summarizes, “once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security, become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.”
The problem with these perceptions of America’s tribes is that they are total bullshit. Hidden Tribes finds that two-thirds of Americans are part of what they term an Exhausted Majority that has more nuanced beliefs than Woke or MAGA tribal members. At this point it is worth quoting the study at length:
It would be a mistake to think of the Exhausted Majority merely as a group of political centrists, at least in the way that term is traditionally understood. They do not simply represent a midpoint between the warring tribes of the left and right. They are frustrated with the status quo and the conduct of American politics and public debate. They overwhelmingly believe that the American government is rigged to serve the rich and influential, and they want things to change. With that said, there is nevertheless one segment within the Exhausted Majority that matches the traditional understanding of centrism: the Moderates, who comprise 15 percent of the population and whose views are consistently very close to the center of public opinion.
The Exhausted Majority may be the key to countering polarization. Traditional Liberals and Moderates instinctively support compromise.
Progressive activists are amongst the most racially homogeneous group in the nation. They are overwhelmingly white, have college degrees, and have well paying jobs. Meanwhile, the average American hates racism but feels that political correct culture is a culture of social shaming that does not help alleviate racial inequities. While we might have thought that it is white people who hate political correctness the most, Hidden Tribes demonstrates that those most opposed are Asian, Hispanic, and American Indian.
The study itself is worth reading in detail, and provides some helpful commentary, as well, on how Americans of different political persuasions may be able to communicate and relate to one another in more productive ways. Unfortunately, it appears that the Exhausted Majority is just going to have to suffer the bloviating of the far left and far right until political and social conditions even out.