Hidden tribes

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

Niall Fergusson wrote in The Sunday Times a couple of weeks ago about Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarised Landscape, saying that it offers a new political typology that divides Americans into seven political categories:

1 Progressive activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry (8%)

2 Traditional liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious (11%)

3 Passive liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned (15%)

4 Politically disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial (26%)

5 Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant (15%)

6 Traditional conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic (19%)

7 Devoted conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising, patriotic (6%)

I know where I sit on this typology – well, for the moment – even though it is not fully applicable to the UK.  Fergusson said that, on the extremes — groups 1 and 7 —

"... life is literally as well as metaphorically black and white.  Fully 99% of progressives believe that many white people today don’t recognise the real advantages they have, but 82% of devoted conservatives reject this, maintaining that nowadays white people do not have any real advantages over others.  It’s the same polarised story on the whole suite of identity politics issues: immigration, Islamophobia, feminism."  He noted that the picture is very different in the middle where the study characterises groups 2 to 5 as “the exhausted majority”.

Exhausted, that is, by identity politics.  We're not quite there in the UK, although identity politics is being pushed hard by people whose interests lie in disrupting the prevailing political order.

I read all this at the same time as a report in the Economist which said that Americans are more likely to change their religion that their politics as they get older, which might explain a lot.  There is, of course, a lot of choice: I remember Henry Hobhouse writing that in the early American colonies all you needed were 7 followers to form a religious sect.  This was in stark contrast to Spanish Catholic South America where sects were not tolerated no matter how many zillion members they had.

Posted in: Comment, New Publications

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