Last October, Esquire Magazine and NBC News released the results of a new poll finding what they referred to as the “New American Center”. The researchers were surprised that a majority of respondents didn’t fall into the standard left-right paradigm.
Political pundits have long presumed that the electorate was composed of 40 percent of people on the left and 40 percent of people on the right and that politics consists of fighting over the middle 20 percent. One might consider this assumption to be a product of professional myopia. When you work in an us or them world, you dismiss the importance of those not belonging to either group.
They found that fifty one percent of people didn’t fall into the traditional left-right paradigm. Of course, this finding really should come as a surprise to no one. People are remarkable in their capacity to avoid being pigeonholed into binary categories. The truth is much more nuanced.
Let’s look at the traditional left-right paradigm from the point of view of the Values Zodiac. Granted the following analysis isn’t collectively exhaustive, but, one of the fundamental disagreement between today’s political Left and Right is over the proper size and scope of government. Those on the Right generally emulate the values of the Hermit and the Free Spirit. They see a strong Federal government as coercive and want to be largely left alone. Additionally, they put more faith in the spontaneous order of free markets to provide for the welfare of society and keep power decentralized. Contrast this with the more Progressive Left. The Left is more driven by the values of the Healer and the Police Officer, in that they believe in more collectivist approaches to social problems and they believe in using the power of government and strong institutions to ensure that excessive power does not flow to entrenched special interest.
This defines the fundamental impasse between Left and Right in today’s America. But, careful examination of the Value Zodiac shows that the Left-Right paradigm only covers 4 of the 12 archetypes. Those who adhere to the other 8 archetypes are part of the wide persuadable middle. So when the researchers arrive at the “surprising” fact that fifty-one percent of individuals do not conform to traditional left-right labels, I really think the researchers are understating the truth. When we oversimplify people into simple us-versus-them categories we do ourselves and our goals a disservice and we do not give others the respect they deserve.
The Value Zodiac is a conceptual model that is used to measure an individual’s worldview. It is a powerful tool to explain human motivation and behavior, which can be used for such important purposes as conflict management, effective persuasion, analyzing ethical dilemmas, etc.