The Greene-Fogg Curve and Presidential Debates

Ever sit back and think, "hm, this presidential debate is mostly way further from the center than I am?"

If so, you're not alone.

In fact, it's the case for most people. The national attention and engagement on different political issues tends to center on the poles of the left and right, where the opinions of Americans on a given political issue tends to be spread throughout the political spectrum, lumping in the middle.

If we draw both of these together on a graph, it looks something like this:

We call this "the Greene-Fogg Curve," and we think it's a good model for what's wrong with American politics. The curve challenges the conventional wisdom that Americans are becoming highly extreme deep-down: we just think we are.

The disproportionate attention on either pole tends to make us identify with one group or another. So in the case of abortion, we are very likely to identify as "pro choice" or "pro life" even though we are also very likely to believe that abortion should be legal some of the time but not all of the time. But since these are the two groups out there, we tend to either identify with one of them or drop out of politics.

How did this come to be, and what can we do about it? Find out in our new book Wedged, on sale today at Amazon.


Erik Fogg

We do politics, but we don't do the thinking for you.