What Does It Mean To Be a Moderate?

What Does It Mean To Be a Moderate?

Politicians on the far-left and far-right are more prominent than ever in American political life, but polling from Gallup has shown that more Americans have considered themselves moderate than either liberal or conservative for much of the past three decades.

That means millions of Americans aren’t having their voices properly heard in Washington. But what are the moderates saying?

Partisans often like to paint voters in the middle as uninformed or disinterested on the real substance of issues (in other words: not intelligent enough to see why their policies are better than the other side’s). But studies have shown that’s not the case – instead, a trait many moderates share is the ability and the desire to find the positives in arguments from both sides of the aisle.

This refusal to fit cleanly into one side’s policies or the other plays into a larger point about moderates -- by and large, they are tired of the partisanship on display day after day in Washington and do not view politics as a focal point of their lives.

But while moderates may not be obsessively checking Twitter, they certainly make themselves known on election day, and often end up being the deciding factor in who wins. A recent study found that genuine moderate voters – voters whose political positions fit neatly somewhere in the middle of the conservative-liberal political spectrum – accounted for 65% of the voters who switched which party they voted for between the 2012 and 2016 elections.

According to Anthony Fowler, an academic at the University of Chicago who led the study, “If you turn on cable news or open your Twitter feed, it seems like Americans are more polarized than ever, and we tend to obsess over the extreme ends of the political spectrum. But when you take a closer look, it’s clear that moderates are central to electoral change.”