It often seems there's no center in American politics anymore. Increasingly polarized camps on the right and left hold diametrically opposed, irreconcilable views on seemingly every issue.
And yet more than a third of American voters call themselves neither liberal or conservative but moderate, indicating a substantial chunk of dissenters from the left-right paradigm. Are they just confused? Are they closet ideologues with strongly partisan opinions but a distaste for labels? Are they politically disconnected? What, in short, is their deal?
The folks at Third Way, a Democratic think tank that urges moderate positions, decided to find out. They commissioned a poll of 1,500 American registered voters, asking detailed questions about a variety of issues to find out whether those who called themselves moderate were a distinct group and what sets them apart. The Democratic pollster Peter Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group conducted the inaugural "State of the Center" poll last month; it carries an overall margin of error of 2.5 percentage points in either direction.
What the poll found is fascinating. Moderates, according to the poll, aren't tuned-out or ill-informed, but they tend to see both sides of complex issues—for example, they want the government to do more to help the economy, but they worry that it may be ineffective or counterproductive. They see both parties as overly ideological and wish politicians would compromise more. A plurality are Democrats, but they see themselves as slightly right-of-center ideologically, and one-third say they vote equally for Democrats and Republicans. And they are surprisingly young and diverse: Self-described moderates represent a 44 percent plurality of Hispanic and nonwhite voters and a 42 percent plurality of the Millennial generation.