It's not easy being a moderate in Washington these days, and new research by PPI helps to explain why.
In The "Centrist Premium": The High Cost of Moderation, PPI Senior Fellow Anne Kim dives into Federal Election Commission data to compare campaign spending by moderate and liberal candidates for the House of Representatives. She emerges with a startling conclusion: Moderate Democrats in 2010 (and their opponents) spent more than twice as much on their campaigns than their counterparts in liberal districts. The ratio rises to nearly 4-1 if you factor in "independent" spending by outside groups.
The "centrist premium" partly reflects the reality that moderate swing districts are by definition more competitive than districts that tilt strongly liberal (as in the cities) or conservative (as in outer suburbs and rural areas). Parties and special interests are reluctant to invest heavily on long-shot bids to unseat incumbents safely ensconsed in gerrymandered districts. But Kim also finds that comparatively "safe" moderates still spent more than liberal incumbents in holding their seats by similar margins.
Kim's report underscores how the way we finance congressional races combines with gerrymandering to create a structural bias against moderation in national politics. The effective disenfranchisement of millions of mainstream voters that results helps to explain the mounting public anger—"explosive" in the words of pollster Stan Greenberg—toward Washington.