What's left of the center?

The Pew study in fact found something quite different. People who didn’t fall into the polarized extremes sometimes hold views similar to those who are. They’re just not consistent about it. “Being in the center of the ideological spectrum means only that a person has a mix of liberal and conservative values, not that they take moderate positions on all issues,” according to the Pew analysis.

One consistent finding is that those who now constitute the middle are less active politically than those on the left or right. “The voters in the middle tend to be much less engaged in politics than those near the poles — less interested, less attentive, less knowledgeable and less active,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University. “So the more active and knowledgeable the set of voters, the more polarized they tend to be.”