The Politics of Human Nature

In Politics
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The conservative anti-taxation crusader Grover Norquist took to Twitter this weekend to explain how he thinks Republicans are created:

Which drew a ton of liberals explaining to Norquist how worthwhile public spending on roads, police and more is, and how learning about those things presumably makes people Democrats.

I hate to be a spoilsport, but … for the most part, they’re all getting it completely backward.

What political scientists have mostly found is that it works the other way around: People first become Democrats or Republicans, then adopt the policy preferences that their party embraces. And when their party flip-flops on some issue, most voters flip-flop right along with it, often without realizing it — in large part because most people don’t have very strong positions on most public-policy questions. 

So how do we wind up in one party or another? Many of us inherit our party identification from our parents. For others, what matters is the group we identify with when it comes to politics. It may be ethnicity, gender, occupation or something else, but of all the groups we belong to, one of them becomes the one that matters for politics — and we know enough about politics to match that group with one of the major parties. 

Of course, it’s a big nation, and there are surely some people who have no party preference, carefully study every issue, form a complex ideology, then align themselves with the appropriate party. But for most of us, it really is the other way around. 

1. Sarah Binder on . 

2. Norm Ornstein on . Plausible? Yes. Correct? Hard to tell. We’ll know a lot more about how good McConnell is at legislating after we find out what happens on this one. 

3. Mallory E. SoRelle and Alexis N. Walker at the Monkey Cage on . 

4. My Bloomberg View colleague Al Hunt reports from a Pennsylvania town where . 

5. And Jamelle Bouie on .

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This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Brooke Sample at [email protected]

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