When liberals refuse to marry those people!


As it turns out, our sons and our daughters are not beyond our command: Yesterday, Kevin Drum ran an intriguing post about a possible trend.

At one time, people said they wouldn’t want their children to marry someone of some other race. Or of some other religion! So vile!

Today, the terms of blanket rejection have changed. Drum quoted Claude Fischer discussing a recent survey:
FISCHER (9/24/12): From the late 1970s through the late 2000s, Americans rated their own political party pretty consistently, at about an average of 70 on the scale. However, Americans rated the other party increasingly coolly, from about a 47 average four decades ago down to about a 35 average these days. This trend portrays a growing animosity toward the other side. Notably, the gulf in party temperatures is now wider than that between whites and blacks and that between Catholics and Protestants.

A pair of surveys asked Americans a more concrete question: in 1960, whether they would be “displeased” if their child married someone outside their political party, and, in 2010, would be “upset” if their child married someone of the other party. In 1960, about 5 percent of Americans expressed a negative reaction to party intermarriage; in 2010, about 40 percent did (Republicans about 50 percent, Democrats about 30 percent).
If that survey is reasonably accurate, 30 percent of Democrats said they would be upset if their child married a Republican. Among Republicans, the rejection rate for inter-marriage stood at 50 percent.

If accurate, that’s somewhat interesting. More interesting are the comments to Dum’s post. To wit:

People love to think tribally, typologically. Many commenters seemed to think that they were debating a different question: Would they be upset if their child married every Republican? Or the most repellent Republican?

They seemed to picture their children marrying the Ideal Form of Republicans. Plato of course was rather dumb. We haven’t advanced very far.

Would you be upset if your child married a Republican? We would think it might depend on who the Republican was! For many commenters, no such nuance could be imagined. In their minds, every one of “those people” is apparently just like every other, thus just like the very worst one.

In comments, the venting was extreme. It helped display an important aspect of the modern political world:

When we liberals emerged from the woods, it turned out we weren’t quite as smart as we’d always said we were. On average.


  1. In this post, Somerby conflates all Kevin Drum commenters and all Democrats as liberals. That is called aggregation and creates a misleading conclusion from the data presented.

    This follows a post critizing a dead journalist for failing to disaggregate data in a NEAP study in order to create a misleading conclusion.

    Shorter Somerby: do as I say, not as I do.

    1. You're right let's use the data to break out the subgroups from the Drumm commenters.


      There's no such data???

      And here I thought you might be on to something, but you're just a another assh0le with an internet connection.

      Oh wells.

    2. Way to take the high road.

    3. And make no sense at all.

  2. Just curious, Bob (and anybody else so tempted), do you think there were "perfectly decent" people in the KKK, and would you be perfectly OK if your daughter/son wanted to marry a KKK member?

    Just askin'.

    1. Is that supposed to be an analogy -- the KKK is analogous to the GOP?

    2. "Just askin'"? Sorry, but you really have to explain how the GOP and the KKK are analogous. Such a comparison doesn't make any sense, in my opinion.

  3. If the person loves your child, likes people in general, and is energetic and optimistic about life, I think that the bumps caused by differing ideologies are likely to be small and perhaps interesting.

    1. Maybe. As a Democrat, all I can say is that CeceliaMc's comment would have seemed eminently reasonable to me in 1960, when thoughtful Republicans weren't rare as hen's teeth. Not so much now. I still leave open the possibility that an individual Republican may be a thoughtful, generous, and kind person with a larger sense of responsibility to others, but I haven't personally met one in a long time, even here in Massachusetts (where Republicans tend to be more moderate in their political positions than is true nationally).

    2. Fair enough. But I know plenty of thoughtful Republicans. The only difference between me and them is that they're wrong.

  4. it turned out we weren’t quite as smart as we’d always said we were. On average.

    This is why I come here every day even if disgusted by both tribes.

  5. Who matters most to you, says the most about you. How a person answers a poll, and how they actually react "in vivo", to a life decision about a son or daughter; is an entirely different matter. Maybe a knee jerk first reaction, then acceptance, because it really isn't your decision to make. Hollywood has made a cottage industry of movies based on this theme. Maybe they are not real, but they do reflect life.

  6. Don't drag Plato into it.

  7. What if it were Karl Rove? That would be unacceptable. There has to be some limits.

  8. Like Kevin Drum, but this kind of "story" is about as weighty as a Gail Collins musing. Glad we are still 20 percent less dumb (by this highly scientific measure) then conservatives, though.

  9. Bob, I have no idea from your brief description what this survey is supposed to mean.

    I do have an inclination to believe that "yes" to the "upset" question doesn't necessarily mean "rejection", because they didn't ask the question: "Would you absolutely forbid your son/daughter from marrying a Democrat/Republican?" You must be very careful when interpreting survey data that it actually answered the question you think it asked.

    Are they highly upset to the point that the party affiliation of the fiance becomes a huge issue, or are they just mildly upset and it is really not that big of a deal?

    Secondly, the timing of the question is significant, and you don't tell us when it was asked. You might get entirely different answers in a non-election year than you would with political campaigns in full swing.

    Until that variable is accounted for, you really can't use this single survey to draw any conclusions about how "tribal" people are becoming unless you have asked exactly the same question at the same time every year, not just presidential election years. Then you could account for possible election-year differences, and you would have a much larger set of data to use.

    Now to your point of "it would depend on the person," well, of course it does. That is why it is important to know the degree of "upset" before we draw any conclusions. I think of those political surveys that measure an incumbent against a generic person from the other party. When the other party nominates an actual person and the incumbent is surveyed against that person, the answers frequently change and change dramatically.

    In that vein, what does this survey measure? Does it measure the degree in which the tolerance for different political opinions has diminished within the public in general has changed? Or does it tell us more about how the political parties themselves have changed in that regard?

    I find it telling, just in this snapshot, that self-identified (I presume) Republicans answered "upset" at a hugely more frequent rate than Democrats, approaching 2-to-1. Does that tell us more about where the Republican Party has gone?

    Perhaps there could be a survey that demonstrates how the public in general is getting more locked into hard-set party ideology on both sides, but I seriously doubt this silly survey is it, and I am really surprised than any student of political science would even bother with it.

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