Political Polarization in the American Public

political_polarizationA couple months ago, I came across this Pew Research poll:

“Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades.” Yeah, I rather assumed that.

“In 2004, only about one-in-ten Americans were uniformly liberal or conservative across most values. Today, the share who are ideologically consistent has doubled.” And these trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life…

“The level of antipathy that members of [Republicans and Democrats] feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades. Not only do greater numbers of those in both parties have negative views of the other side, those negative views are increasingly intense. And today, many go so far as to say that the opposing party’s policies threaten the nation’s well-being…”

I have to think that partisan media outlets, and less-than-rational beings on the information highway. fuel this divide.

“On every measure of engagement, political participation is strongly related to ideology and partisan antipathy; those who hold consistently liberal or conservative views, and who hold strongly negative views of the other political party, are far more likely to participate in the political process than the rest of the nation…

“Liberals and conservatives are divided over more than just politics. Those on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum disagree about everything from the type of community in which they prefer to live to the type of people they would welcome into their families…

Thus we often have fewer opportunities to engage with someone not sharing our philosophy, unless you call rancorous online bile rantings “engaging.”
In other words, we are totally umbrageous.

Pretty depressing stuff, for me.

Yet I hold out some faint hope that maybe we can figure each other out. From BillMoyers.com:

“A large body of political scientists and political psychologists now concur that liberals and conservatives disagree about politics in part because they are different people at the level of personality, psychology and even traits like physiology and genetics.

If we could understand how each other ticks, maybe we could understand the other’s POV better, and that could foster some sort of rapprochement. At least that’s my theory, which beats just being morose about the whole thing.

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