Study Captures Electorate Beyond 'Red vs. Blue'

The metaphorical three-legged stool of the Republican base -- national security advocates, economic and social conservatives -- looks more like a unicycle today. In other words, conservatives are more uniformly conservative. Yet the wider GOP coalition continues to disagree on an array of issues, from whether it will require any tax hikes to resolve the deficit to how rapidly the U.S. should withdraw forces from Afghanistan. So reports the Pew Research Center in a seismic new study of the American electorate.

Democratic blocs continue to fracture on issues ranging from the impact of environmental regulations on jobs to whether immigration "strengthens society." Pew also concluded that Barack Obama unites Republicans significantly more than the tea party movement, much as George W. Bush once unified Democrats.

The report reiterates how extensively economic issues consume Americans. It's a fresh reminder that Osama bin Laden's death, however important historically and geopolitically, is unlikely to significantly alter the 2012 campaign.

The study also underlines a common mistake in political analysis: independent is not a synonym for moderate. The ranks of independents have increased in recent years. Pew notes what's often overlooked. Many non-aligned voters still hold some highly ideological views. "But they combine these views in ways that defy liberal or conservative orthodoxy," Pew reports.

This unique report, in one sense, echoes the deep divisions that define our parties and politics. The most significant partisan fault line was national security in 2005, when Pew's previous typology study was published. Today, unsurprisingly, the role of government is "most correlated with political preferences looking ahead to 2012."

A long and slightly shallow piece. It does explain the grumbling from the right with regards to the successful elimination of Osama bin Laden, though. Those who oppose Obama cannot find anything, not even the killing of our most hated enemy, to cheer in this administration.