- Series: Great Questions in Politics Series
- Paperback: 128 pages
- Publisher: Longman (July 14, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 032127640X
- ISBN-13: 978-0321276407
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#5,233,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #1087 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Public Affairs & Policy > Cultural Policy
- #8092 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Ideologies & Doctrines > Conservatism & Liberalism
- #25416 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > United States
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America (Great Questions in Politics Series) Paperback – July 14, 2004
There is a newer edition of this item:
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
If I took anything away from this book I took away two things: 1.) Americans aren't polarized as the media would have you believe and 2.) surveys and the data gathered from surveys are immensely dependent upon the questions.
A quote that summarizes the book can be found on page 9:
"A polarized political class makes the citizenry appear polarized, but it is largely that--an appearance."
Morris Fiorina sets out to prove that the people aren't polarized on their policy positions, they are polarized in their choices. Meaning, if two Americans aren't in agreement on an issue they usually aren't too far apart, BUT... the candidates that they most closely identify with are usually miles apart from on another. Hence, when the voters go to the polls the results will indicate that the people are polarized when in reality they only had TWO choices. What Fiorina proved is that we're not strictly red or blue but more purple.
And I like how Fiorina compared and contrasted different surveys to expose just how vague some surveys can be while others paint a clearer picture. One such survey was on the issue of abortion. People are either pro-choice or pro-life (no one wants to be labelled anti-whatever when talking about abortion). Those are usually the choices and it is one of the most polarizing issues in America. But when a survey was done that had six questions on it it told a different story:
"Please tell me whether or not you think it should be possible for a pregnant woman to obtain a legal abortion if
1.) the woman's own health is seriously endangered.
2.) she became pregnant as a result of rape.
3.) there is a strong chance of serious defect in the baby.
4.) the family has very low income and cannot afford anymore children.
5.) she is not married and does not want to marry the man.
6.) she is married and does not want any more children.
The majority of Americans on either side of the debate agreed on at least the first three categories with few saying it should be illegal in all cases and few saying it should be legal in all cases. But the activists on either side that seemingly speak for everyone make it seem as though the issue is black or white.
There are many such examples as this throughout the book that do a lot to dispel the myth of this huge chasm between us all. It is a worthwhile read if just to give you a new perspective.
Fiorina, for those readers who are familiar with his academic research, is a skilled researcher, well schooled in statistics. It is to his credit that he presents evidence in a way that is accessible to lay readers (his technical publications would not be so easily understandable to nonacademic readers).
In short, he believes that the idea of a great culture war is dead wrong. As he says in Chapter 1: ". . .the sentiments expressed. . .[by] scholars, journalists, and politicos range from simple exaggeration to sheer nonsense." Chapter 2 suggests strongly that the differences between citizens in red and blue states is not so great as advocates of the culture war say. While there is greater polarization between leaders of the Republicans and Democrats across the country, this same polarization is not nearly so manifest among the bulk of the American people. Indeed, the United States, in his view, remains a centrist, moderate country politically.
All in all, a good read and a provocative thesis. Worth reading by those interested in how well "culture war" serves as a metaphor for American politics.
The introductory chapter states their simple thesis eloquently, as do all three of the excellent reviews found here on Amazon: The supposed polarized culture is a myth, perpetuated by politicians and the media for their own purposes. After the introductory chapter, several divisive issues (abortion, gay rights, etc.) have their own chapter for more careful analysis. In each situation, academic analysis of the data shows the US has extreme opinions on each side, but the vast majority collect in the middle.
An interesting example recently is the attention given to the Terry Schievo case by the media and certain politicians. In virtually every presentation, the media was dripping with emotion and sympathy, mostly for the parents. Well, I guess they have to make a living. Anyway, after over a week of this fiasco, I ran across one guy being interviewed who said to the press, "By the way, you do understand, don't you, that THOUSANDS of people die every day, in the United States, in exactly the same manner?" Why did we not see a sixty minute special calmly considering both sides of this important ethical issue, instead of constant emotional bombardment.
One more comment: Several times the authors of this fine book mentioned an attention-grabbing statistic in support of the centrist tendencies of US citizens on a supposed polarizing issue, then added, "Of course, academians in political science are not surprised." The point here - there is a large gap between what academically accepted evidence shows and what is presented to us (shouted at us) by those who have vested interests in perpetuating the myth of a highly polarized US culture. Great book!