Over the last decade or so, politics in America has been locked into lawyer mode. On both the left and right, positions are staked out, evidence and facts are ignored and opponents are demonized for having the gall to refute orthodoxy. In the last several years, this dynamic has intensified—and the resultant polarization is tearing at the social fabric that is supposed to unite us. Because most of this process is carried out in our unconscious minds—it carries with it all of our categorizations, assumptions, stereotypes and biases. It's almost no contest—the emotional, irrational unconscious has a real advantage over the thoughtful, rational conscious mind.
Public opinion research has an important role to play is sorting out and identifying these parallel paths to political ideology. Surveys need to go beyond surface identities and probe for the underlying foundations (conscious or unconscious) that lead to opinions. It's not easy, but if we want to get back to a society that values rational political discourse, it has to be done.