We have plenty of data on why people vote. In very, very, general terms:
1 – They agree with the conservative economic program.
2 – They agree with the conservative military program.
3 – They agree with the liberals sympathy to the plight of minorities and the vulnerable, but not to the point of creating a welfare state.
4 – They see the (urban) liberal assault on traditional culture as ‘haughty’ and insulting.
So, when they add all this up, they end up on the side of the conservatives.
Liberals are more subject to the false consensus bias than are conservatives, and tend to think everyone agrees with them. Conservatives are more subject to threats that will destabilize society than liberals, and have a more pessimistic view of human nature. The public agrees with that perception of human nature. Especially on crime, the economy, welfare and the military. So that’s where the ‘average’ conservative comes from if there is one.
COMPOSITION OF THE ELECTORATE
The majority (for now) of the country remains ‘leaning conservative’ by a large margin. (Liberals are less that 20% of the electorate). The USA is a very conservative country by international standards. It maintains it’s germanic protestant roots. Religious belief is higher. We have more violent crime -albiet it is largely race related — but less petty crime that other countries.
PARTIES SERVE COALITIONS NOT ‘AVERAGES’
Both parties are built out of coalitions. Sort of like hands of playing cards. And parties use them like playing cards. Thats how they stay in power. To understand your question, requires really looking at that set of coalitions. There are really no ‘average’ people in the sense that you mean it. The level of scientific understanding that political marketers have of how people behave is disconcerting in its accuracy.
THE EXTREME ENDS AND THE IMPORTANT MIDDLE
Political speech is very extreme. The media represents extremes. Each side of the spectrum is fully committed to their party. There is a small group in the middle that is highly pragmatic, that is not committed either way, and who make up their minds who to vote for at the last minute. That group determines everything in every election. So, practically speaking, all the ‘talk’ we hear is really for the purpose of getting people’s attention so that the media can profit from advertising, and so that the ‘base’ of each party will provide monetary contributions to the candidates.
ADVERTISING BUYS THE ILLUSION OF CONSENSUS
The middle tends to make its decision on popular consensus as they understand it. that consensus is produced very often by advertising and media. So the heated conversations exist largely to provide enough money so that the media can be saturated sufficiently to create the impression that there is a consensus, so that the middle will go with the consensus.
ONCE IN POWER THE POLITICIANS FIND OUT HOW LITTLE POWER THEY HAVE.
The bureaucracy, the practical demands of being the worlds’ policemen, and the problem of so many different coalitions, the influence of lobbyists, as well as the need to obtain reelection money, render much of government a system of entertainment more than anything else.
I know it probably sounds absurd. But while oversimplified, that is a pretty accurate representation of what’s going on.