No, Polarization Is Not an Elite Phenomenon Forced Onto Voters

If you are one of those people who still thinks partisan polarization is an artificial phenomenon forced onto voters–who mostly agree on a host of “centrist” positions–by political party elites, check out this set of answers to questions posed by Quinnipiac University pollsters to likely Democratic and Republican Caucus-goers in Iowa:

There is a yawning attitude gap between likely Iowa Republican Caucus participants and their Democratic counterparts on income inequality, immigration and the battle against ISIS, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today….

Likely Republican caucus-goers say 70 – 25 percent that the federal government should not pursue policies to reduce the income gap between wealthy and less wealthy Americans.

Likely Democratic caucus-goers say 91 – 6 percent that the federal government should try to reduce income inequality.

Among Republicans, 46 percent say illegal immigrants should be required to leave, with 34 percent saying illegal immigrants should stay and be offered a path to citizenship and 17 percent say that they should stay, but with no path to citizenship.

Among Democrats, 83 percent say illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship, while 9 percent say they should stay, but with no path to citizenship, and 8 percent say they should be required to leave.

Republicans support 72 – 23 percent sending U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Democrats oppose sending troops 63 – 29 percent.

Totally aside from the partisan gap, some of the GOP numbers are pretty startling. Basically half of likely Iowa caucus-goers are in a “cattle car” faction of those who just want to ship the undocumented back to wherever they came from. No wonder Steve King is a respected figure among Iowa Republicans who would have almost certainly won the 2014 GOP Senate primary had he tried for it (saving us from Joni Ernst, but that’s another story).

And close to three-fourths of these folks want essentially to restart the Iraq War with a little side adventure in Syria. They don’t even want to try bombing IS back into the Stone Age before putting those “boots on the ground.”

These are the people who will get the first cut at “winnowing the field” for the GOP early next year. They are indeed a ferocious bunch, even aside from the “social issues” extremism for which they are mostly famous.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.