The USA is a Left of Center Nation

The USA is a left of center nation given the center defined by elites. This is my off topic thought (and comment) on a brilliant post on money and politics at The Monkey Cage. Ray LaRaja and Brian Schaffner note that parties give to centrist incumbents (likely to be in seriously contested seats) and argue that allowing more soft money controlled by parties would reduce polarization.

I note and steal their very first graph on issue opinions of people who don’t donate money to political campaigns (95% of the population) (click read more to see a thumbnail then click it to see the figure — sorry I am wordpressilliterate).


I am interested in the fact that, according to the ideological scale, the average (and median and modal) non donor is well to the left of center. I am sure that when people here of the center, they think of the center of public opinion. But the center as defined by, well for example, LaRaja and Schaffner is to the right of the center of public opinion.

I asked them how they defined zero. I can think of many definitions which would give this result. One is sort issues as left or right based on House roll calls (Dems vote left) then look a the aveage or median representative — so we just learn the House is to the right of the country. Another is subjective and consists of choosing a set of issues where members of the elite perceive answering yes to half of the questions to be centrist.

My final guess is that the center perceived by political scientists and journalists is somewhere in between the average view and the weighted average of opinions weighted by the income of the opinion holder.