Republicans more conservative now than decades past

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The Oregonian ran a lengthy piece on Sen. Jason Atkinson and why his fellow Republicans’ hard-right turn is the reason for his retirement from the legislature. Interestingly, a new report has just been released showing that he’s correct.

Political scientists Keith Poole (University of Georgia) and Howard Rosenthal (New York University) have been tracking political party ideology over more than a century. While one might expect each of the political parties to drift some, Poole and Rosenthal’s data show Republicans have embarked on a deep and steady track towards more and more conservative since the late 1970s. (At the same time, they observed that while Democrats’ leanings have ebbed and flowed, they basically flat-lined over the last 40 years.)


According to NPR, the research tracks as far back as the 18th century, and shows that Republicans are actually more conservative now than they have been in the past century.

Poole reminds critics that this data reflects no biases, as it is “an entirely objective statistical procedure. The graphs just reflect what comes out of the computer.” Without espousing political commentary, Poole points to the data to show that “[our nation’s] polarization is largely due to how far and relatively quickly Republicans have shifted to the right end of the ideological spectrum.”

And as Atkinson points out, this Republican swing is certainly evident in Oregon. As the Oregonian reports:

“I wasn’t at peace,” [Atkinson] says about his decision not to run for re-election this year. Under growing financial pressure at home, he also endured attacks from his own caucus for siding with the environmental lobby and became increasingly unhappy with his own party’s gamesmanship… “I have been abandoned more times — there’s zero loyalty in Republican politics,” he says. “Republicans right now are saying, ‘You’re not Republican enough.'”

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