Liberals Want Walkability and Diversity; Conservatives Want Big Houses and Privacy

The latest Pew poll on politics in the US shows Americans are more polarized and resentful of each other than ever before.  It even extends to their land use and neighborhood preferences:

If they could choose anywhere to live, three-quarters of consistent conservatives prefer a community where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores, and restaurants are several miles away.” The preferences of consistent liberals are almost the exact inverse, with 77% saying they’d chose to live where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores, and restaurants are within walking distance.”

And to racial and ethnic diversity preferences:

Most Americans, regardless of their ideological preferences, value communities in which they would live close to extended family and high-quality schools. But far more liberals than conservatives think it is important that a community have racial and ethnic diversity (76% vs. 20%). At the same time, conservatives are more likely than liberals to attach importance to living in a place where many people share their religious faith (57% vs. 17% of liberals).

I’m sure a psychologist or socioligist could have a field day explaining these results, but to my mind I can’t help but attribute some of it to the splintering of the media. Not only are we bombarded with negative, scary stories about dangerous people doing violent things that frighten us into gated or remote communities with armed defenses, but politically we fragment into on-line and network TV communities that do nothing but heap insults on those of different political persuasions, while reinforcing our existing beliefs. These messages get people riled up and filled with anger and resentment, as borne out in the survey results.

Meanwhile, for land use, the polling is actually quite positive. That’s a significant percentage of people that want walkable, mixed-use, diverse communities. Unfortunately it will be mostly liberals living there, but it’s a significant market segment that needs better neighborhoods.


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