During every election campaign, political journalists make claims and offer interpretations that political scientists who study public opinion, campaigns, and elections know to be inaccurate. In this article, I discuss a number of misconceptions that frequently appear in media discussions of electoral polarization. Chief among these are the confusion between polarization and party sorting, along with the tendency to attribute any changes in voter behavior to changes in the voters, rather than to changes in the candidates who are running and the nature of their campaigns. Also important is the widespread confusion – much of it due to incomplete political science research this time – about independents. A significant part of what journalists get wrong no doubt reflects the unrepresentative political contexts in which they live and work.
This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.