My Typological Tale

One of the most common requests I hear when engaging in political discussions is what are you? Which usually strikes me as irrelevant because I mostly engage in dialogue about policies, not politics – whereby we should be able to discuss the relative merits of a policy without partisanship. When I do talk with people about politics, it is primarily analytical in nature – polls, motivations, platforms, etc. Yet I also recognize that a common tactic in argumentation of this nature is to demand political typology at some point, if it is not overtly clear, so people can devolve into rants about epicurean moochers and storming the walls of tyrannical Mordor D.C.

So what do I do, or say, to sort of put this question on the sidelines indefinitely? My voter registration says Independent. I’ve never voted in a party primary. I was raised by a feminist, widowed, mother who greatly informed my worldview. It was a worldview that was somewhat at odds with my late father’s small-town conservatism, the same conservatism that his father (who I always called my Pop) advocated to me until he passed away during my senior year of high school. Those two political outlooks are very important to me, and inform the way I approach politics and policy.

Yet I understand that (most) people are very attached to labels, as well as the positions and solidarity that such political identities provide. That’s not really the case with myself, but in the interest of supplying a typology I looked for one of those quizzes that tell you what to call yourself. The best one I found is courtesy of the Pew Research Center, and after taking their quiz they ascribed me this label:

Political Typology

Based on your responses, YOU are a… Post-Modern

Along with 13% of the public.

What the heck is a Post-Modern? Pew explains:

 Post-Moderns

13% OF THE PUBLIC

What They Believe
  • Generally supportive of government, though more conservative on race policies and the safety net
  • Strongly supportive of regulation and environmental protection
  • Most (56%) say Wall Street helps the economy more than it hurts
  • Very liberal on social issues, including same-sex marriage
  • One of the least religious groups: nearly a third are unaffiliated with any religious tradition
  • Favor the use of diplomacy rather than force
Who They Are
  • The youngest of the typology groups: 32% under age 30
  • A majority are non-Hispanic white and have at least some college experience
  • Half live in either the Northeast or the West
  • A majority (58%) live in the suburbs
  • 63% use social networking
  • One-in-five regularly listen to NPR; 14% regularly watch The Daily Show

I suppose that’s generally correct. I am non-Hispanic white and have some college experience, and I am (barely) under 30. Though I do not live in the Northeast or West, nor live in the suburbs, I certainly use social networking and regularly listen to NPR – not so much The Daily Show. I would quibble with the conservatism on race issues – I actually didn’t answer the two race questions because I didn’t feel comfortable enough to answer.

From the main typology report, Pew shows where I stand among the other labels:

So I guess that would make me…center-left? Finally, here is the Pew paragraph on the center section of Mostly Independent:

Independents have played a determinative role in the last three national elections. But the three groups in the center of the political typology have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels. Libertarians and Post-Moderns are largely white, well-educated and affluent. They also share a relatively secular outlook on some social issues, including homosexuality and abortion. But Republican-oriented Libertarians are far more critical of government, less supportive of environmental regulations, and more supportive of business than are Post-Moderns, most of whom lean Democratic.

Disaffecteds, the other main group of independents, are financially stressed and cynical about politics. Most lean to the Republican Party, though they differ from the core Republican groups in their support for increased government aid to the poor. Another group in the center, Bystanders, largely consign themselves to the political sidelines and for the most part are not included in this analysis.

I understand that’s not enough for some people. They want to paint in broad rhetorical brush strokes. It’s easier because most partisans and ideologues are very comfortable falling back to the war of ideals when they start to lose the war of ideas. Please don’t misunderstand me, though, for I do believe the conflict of ideals has a legitimate place in our national discourse. It just seems that we often only speak of ideals and visions, and not so much about the policies that those ideals help inform. So now that you know you’re talking to a Post-Modern pundit, how about we start discussing the details, eh?

*Note: This will be cross-posted as a new page.

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2 responses to “My Typological Tale

  1. Though admittedly my knowledge on American politics is small, wouldn’t you argue that the policies that the major parties hold are very different to each other? It seems that that they are extremely distinct in their policies compared to that of British politics where the lines do become somewhat blurred. That’s why it seems that labelling seems more easier. I, like yourself try to avoid labels but can understand why people do so in this circumstance.

    • Your observation is probably correct, though the policy “aims” of both parties in this country are always further apart than the actual legislation that passes. I think our political labels have as much to do with identity politics and regional interests than real preferences for national policies. Yet at the micro level labeling seems to be most important as it relates to arguing politics, which I think diminishes the quality of dialogue.

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