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Hidden Tribes

Hidden Tribes of America
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Kerby Andersonnever miss viewpoints

Over the last few weeks, I have had the privilege of interviewing authors who have written about our polarized country. David French writes about Divided We Fall. Justin Giboney writes about civic engagement in Compassion & Conviction. Both of them talked about a study known as the Hidden Tribes of America, that I wrote about two years ago.

The study broke Americans into seven tribes: Progressive Activists, Traditional Liberals, Passive Liberals, Politically Disengaged, Moderates, Traditional Conservatives, and Devoted Conservatives. They found that the smallest and most extreme tribes (Progressives Activists and Devoted Conservatives) accounted for a total of 14 percent of Americans. Because of their involvement in time and money, they often frame the issues for the majority of us. That would be the remaining 86 percent of us.

I noticed in these book interviews that the middle group (what the researchers called the “Exhausted Majority”) was only 67 percent. Now, I’m no math major, but 100 minus 14 is 86 not 67. That’s when I went back to the study.

The researchers consider only Traditional Liberals as part of the Exhausted Majority but not Traditional Conservatives. The researcher’s justification follows three words that begin with the letter F. They are fed up with polarization. They are forgotten in the public discourse. And they are flexible in their views. Do you notice the bias?

Traditional conservatives are certainly fed up with polarization and certainly feel forgotten by the mainstream media and the political elite. But are they any less flexible than liberals on topics like abortion or other hot-button issues?

The fair way to represent this would be to include both liberals and conservatives in the exhausted majority for a total of 86 percent or to eliminate both groups for a total of 75 percent. Either way you can see the extremes are driving the political debate for the rest of us.viewpoints new web version

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