Moderates are often overlooked in contemporary research on American voters. Many scholars who have examined moderates argue that these individuals are only classified as such due to a lack of political sophistication or conflicted views across issues. We develop a method to distinguish three ways an individual might be classified as moderate: having genuinely moderate views across issues, being inattentive to politics or political surveys, or holding views poorly summarized by a single liberal–conservative dimension. We find that a single ideological dimension accurately describes most, but not all, Americans’ policy views. Using the classifications from our model, we demonstrate that moderates and those whose views are not well explained by a single dimension are especially consequential for electoral selection and accountability. These results suggest a need for renewed attention to the middle of the American political spectrum.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 110 - American