Are Tea Partiers Really Less Willing to Compromise Than Extreme Lefties?

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Ezra Klein writes today:

Hardcore conservatives agree with liberals on a lot. They just don’t want to compromise.

This is based on the Pew typology survey, which finds that “steadfast conservatives” oppose compromise by a 2:1 margin, while every other group favors compromise by at least a little bit. At the far left end of the spectrum, “solid liberals” favor compromise by 84-11 percent.

This is the same result that we’ve seen in lots of other surveys, and I sure wish someone would dig deeper into this. I can think of several questions:

  • Are folks on the far left really in favor of compromise? Or by “compromise” do they actually mean “the other side should back down in exchange for a few bones”?
  • Do extreme conservatives have good reason to be suspicious of compromise? A feeling of being sold out is a common trope on the right, but is it justified?
  • Are liberals in favor of compromise because they believe—correctly—that change is always incremental, which makes it sensible to accept an increment now in the sound belief that it will encourage a slippery slope toward further increments? (And likewise, are conservatives perfectly rational to oppose compromise for the same reason?)
  • In practice, when various real-world compromise positions are polled, are extreme liberals truly more willing to accept them than extreme conservatives?

You can probably guess that I’m a little skeptical of the entire notion that liberals are all sweetly willing to compromise. They certainly talk in a more conciliatory manner than tea partiers, and maybe in the end they really are more willing to swallow half a loaf. But I have my doubts. More research, please.

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