On Thursday, April 28th, Elon Musk, the world's richest man and imminent owner of the social media platform Twitter, posted a meme describing where he falls in the political spectrum. Musk can be seen standing exactly on the same spot in the graph from 2008 to 2021, while the political spectrum shifts in 2012 and 2021 to place him first closer to the center and then towards the right, as "his fellow liberals" can be seen running further left, becoming what is labeled "woke progressive." As the FoxBusiness site explains it here, ''the center and right remain stationary, while the political left keeps moving farther from the center over the years." The happy stick figure of the conservative remains unmoved. This suggests that conservatives haven't changed but the left has become more extreme. We find this claim to be misleading and inaccurate. Although the American political spectrum has indeed become more polarized in the recent decades, research from the Pew Research Center showed that not the left, but the right has become more radical in recent years, at least when it comes to the members of Congress who make the laws of the country.
The research used members of the U.S. Congress' voting history to place them in a two-dimensional ideological space. They found that both parties had moved away from the ideological center from the 1970s, with Democrats becoming on average more liberal and Republicans "much more" conservative. Studies on the general public show similar trends. According to a Gallup poll published in January, 74% of Republicans identified themselves as "conservative," while only half of the Democrats identified themselves as "liberal."
As reported by Giulia Carbonaro on Newsweek...
Previous research published in 2020 by the Swedish think tank V-Dem Institute and cited by The Economist showed similar results, citing findings proving that Republicans became less liberal under former President Donald Trump's leadership than at any other time in recent history.
Musk has never confirmed his political stance, but has previously described himself as a "political moderate." He has pledged to make Twitter "the platform for free speech around the world," meaning all speech that is not illegal should be allowed to be shared on the platform.
The billionaire has said that Twitter should equally upset "the far right and the far left" to be considered a reliable, neutral platform and be trusted by users.
According to a study recently published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, members of Congress in the United States are also less civil on Twitter now than they were in 2008. The study revealed a 23% increase in online incivility among Congresspeople from 2009-2019, with more inflammatory tweets receiving more likes and retweets.
According to a nationwide survey by researchers from Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Northeastern, Harvard and Northwestern universities, a significant minority of Americans lack confidence in the outcome of the 2020 presidential election with more than one-third – primarily Republicans and Trump voters. This trend suggests that people who identify as "Republican" have a far more extreme view of the U.S. political system than Democrats, based on their belief that the left somehow cheated in the 2020 presidential election.
See more research and expert commentary in the U.S. Politics channel on Newswise.