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Talk of politics in the United States today is abuzz with warring red and blue factions. The message is that Americans are split due to deeply-held beliefs--over abortion, gay marriage, stem-cell research, prayer in public schools. Is this cultural divide a myth, the product of elite partisans? Or is the split real?
Yes, argue authors Mark Brewer and Jeffrey Stonecash--the cultural divisions are real. Yet they tell only half the story. Differences in income and economic opportunity also fuel division--a split along class lines. Cultural issues have not displaced class issues, as many believe. Split shows that both divisions coexist meaning that levels of taxation and the quality of healthcare matter just as much as the debate over the right to life versus the right to choose.
The authors offer balanced, objective analysis, complete with a wealth of data-rich figures and tables, to explain the social trends underlying these class and cultural divides and then explore the response of the parties and voters. Offering solid empirical evidence, the authors show that how politicians, the media, and interest groups perceive citizen preferences--be they cultural or class based--determines whether or not the public gets what it wants. Simply put, each set of issues creates political conflict and debate that produce very different policies and laws. With a lively and highly readable narrative, students at every level will appreciate the brevity and punch of Split and come away with a more nuanced understanding of the divisions that drive the current American polity.
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Mark D. Brewer is assistant professor of political science at the University of Maine, where he teaches courses in American government, parties and elections, and religion and politics. His research focuses on partisanship and electoral behavior at the mass and elite levels, the linkages between public opinion and public policy, and the interactions between religion and politics in the United States. Brewer is the author of Relevant No More? The Catholic/Protestant Divide in American Electoral Politics (2003), coauthor of Diverging Parties (2003), and has published articles in Political Research Quarterly, Political Behavior, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
Jeffrey M. Stonecash is professor and chair of the political science department at Syracuse University, where he teaches courses on American political parties, federalism and state politics, and quantitative methods. His research is in the area of political parties and their electoral bases, changes over time in electoral bases and their impact on the nature of political debates in society. Stonecash is the author or coauthor of Political Parties Matter: Realignment and the Return of Partisan Voting (2006), Political Polling (2003), The Emergence of State Government: Parties and New Jersey Politics, 1950-2000 (2002), Diverging Parties (2003), and Class and Party in American Politics, (2000), as well as editor of Governing New York State (2006).
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