Committed liberals and conservatives don’t realize how weird they are.

You are weird. I am very weird. And the worst part is, we don’t really recognize how weird we are.

That’s the basic argument of Donald Kinder and Nathan Kalmoe’s Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public. Their study begins with a famous paper by political scientist Philip Converse titled “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” The nature of those belief systems, Converse concluded, was that they really weren’t systems at all. The overwhelming majority of Americans were free of anything that resembled coherent liberal or conservative ideologies — indeed, only “about 17 percent of the public could both assign the terms ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ correctly to the parties and say something sensible about what the terms meant.”

Which isn’t to say that voters didn’t have opinions, much less party and group loyalties. They did, and they do. But the internally coherent (or at least semi-coherent) ideological frameworks that drive the activities of politicians, pundits, and other political actors are foreign to most voters.

Converse’s basic findings have been replicated in a number of different studies done over the past 50 years, and Kinder and Kalmoe extend on them here. In a telling bit of research, they scoured massive election surveys to see what bearing self-reported ideology had on policy opinions on issues ranging from LGBTQ rights to health care to foreign aid to Social Security. The answer, across years ranging from 1992 to 2009, was basically none — “ideological differences,” they reported, “have little influence over opinion on immigration, affirmative action, capital punishment, gun control, Social Security, health insurance, the deficit, foreign aid, tax reform, and the war on terrorism.”

There were two glaring exceptions: LGBTQ rights and abortion. But the exceptions were so Read More Here