This week I will be blogging on a very interesting new study, Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler's Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics.
Authoritarians tend to vote Republican these days. But this was not always so. Hetherington and Weiler show that the big partisan gap that we see now, as compared with, say, 40 years ago, is because the Republican strategists have been successful in getting authoritarians to become solid Republicans. They argue that the American electorate is not more authoritarian than it used to be. It is just better sorted into parties now that it was before.
The beginning of this big sort came in the wake of the civil rights legislation, which was led by Democrats but passed by bipartisan majorities. Republicans' suffered a crushing defeat in the Goldwater - Johnson election in 1964. At the same time the Democrats succeeded in shifting black voters to the Democratic Party. Republican leaders then adopted the "Southern strategy" to "go hunting where the ducks are" - that is, to get Southern whites who thought civil rights and integration would upend the social order, to switch to the Republican Party. This strategy worked so well that the GOP successfully recruited other groups who feared that the social order was in danger from the movement for equal rights for women, and today's movement for equal rights for homosexuals.
There are, of course, authoritarians and nonauthoritarians in both parties. But there has been a clear movement of most authoritarians into the Republican Party, which has been a key part of GOP success since 1980.