Pew poll shows polarization and partisan antipathy on the rise

posted at 9:08 am on June 12, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Surprised? That must mean you’re one of those [fill in the blank here] who are destroying our country! Or perhaps you’re just someone who hasn’t paid much attention to politics since Ike’s last term in office. Pew takes a look at the drift to the poles over the last 20 years since the halcyon days of warm bipartisanship and gentlemanly politics of the, er, Newt Gingrich/Bill Clinton era.

Who knew that James Carville represented the baseline for our better selves?

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. These trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life. And a new survey of 10,000 adults nationwide finds that these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process.

The overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10% to 21%. And ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past. As a result, ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished: Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

Partisan animosity has increased substantially over the same period. In each party, the share with a highly negative view of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994. Most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

“Ideological silos” are now common on both the left and right. People with down-the-line ideological positions – especially conservatives – are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families.

And at a time of increasing gridlock on Capitol Hill, many on both the left and the right think the outcome of political negotiations between Obama and Republican leaders should be that their side gets more of what it wants.

Ahem. I’ve been following politics for forty years, and I don’t recall a time when people thought they should negotiate to get less of what they want than their opponents. Even when people spoke in more altruistic terms about finding “common ground” in politics, what they meant — and what they tried to establish — was a definition of “common ground” that made it at least adjacent to their own position. Politics has never been beanbag, after all, and it certainly wasn’t in 1994, the baseline for this analysis.

As for polarization within the parties, that looks more like a consequence of a shift from geography to ideology in politics. For most of America’s history, geography and regional interests trumped political parties, which were more organized for elections than philosophy. Over the last few decades, as the revolution in communications and transportation homogenized the country and shaped our national culture, the parties have become the natural home for ideological fraternity.

That’s what seems to be happening in this Pew chart:

pew-polarization

 

In terms of personal “ideological silos,” that gets explained later in the Pew poll by the choice of communities. Liberals are far more likely to seek out living space in dense urban areas, while conservatives are far more likely to look for suburban or exurban living space. As a consequence, we see low levels of coexistence within living communities, although that doesn’t touch on other communal arrangements like families and worship communities. This, too, doesn’t strike me as breaking news. Urban areas have attracted liberals for many years, and as regulations in  those areas get more and more intrusive — I’m thinking about Michael Bloomberg’s New York City in particular, but it’s true in general — fewer and fewer conservatives would find urban living attractive anyway.

On the other hand, I do think that politics has gotten meaner, in both the current and archaic senses of the word. It has become both more petty and more angry, although that’s strictly a personal observation and not one that has any data set to back it up, save the Pew poll. But has ideological polarization caused that, or does it come from a larger cultural corrosion created by the celebration of derision and a nihilistic social trend? Politics reflects who we are more than it defines who we are, I think, and so those issues look cultural rather than political. Pew may be highlighting the symptoms, but missing the disease.

Update: Kevin Glass busts a few myths in his analysis.


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I bet Dan Quayle would be shocked to hear this.

Flange on June 12, 2014 at 9:11 AM

As the foot print of government becomes larger and effects an individuals life more and more, the imperative to make that footprint lighter on oneself increases exponentially.
Ask yourself if the government is getting more intrusive into people’s lives and you can calculate how partisan they are going to be.

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM

If it’s gotten “meaner” it’s because righties are fighting back better, for decades we’ve been assaulted with little real return fire.

“Meaner” equals “Defending Ourselves”.

Bishop on June 12, 2014 at 9:17 AM

Pew poll shows polarization and partisan antipathy on the rise
==============================================================

Thats Crazy Talk!!
(sarc)

canopfor on June 12, 2014 at 9:17 AM

This just in…..

Water is wet!

Film at 11.

itsspideyman on June 12, 2014 at 9:18 AM

On the other hand, I do think that politics has gotten meaner

I’m not sure if it has Ed. Seems around the 1860′s or so things got pretty mean politics wise.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 9:19 AM

In fairness the GOP should cave and let these neo-luddites take away our electricity and force us into Soviet looking apartments…

“for comity” as well as comedy….right Ed?

harlekwin15 on June 12, 2014 at 9:22 AM

Good!

I don’t want any Mother effing Democreep so much as breathing
the same air as me.

ToddPA on June 12, 2014 at 9:22 AM

I’m not sure if it has Ed. Seems around the 1860′s or so things got pretty mean politics wise.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 9:19 AM

Stand by Bmore! We may soon long for the relative peace and quiet of the Civil War years!! :-)

Deano1952 on June 12, 2014 at 9:23 AM

It will get much worse and eventually the two political sides will become totally irreconcilable . . . when this stage is achieved then, “Katy bar the door”.

rplat on June 12, 2014 at 9:24 AM

Thanks, Barack. This is all your doing.

pdigaudio on June 12, 2014 at 9:27 AM

Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

We know who the 8% of Rs are, but who the f*ck are the 6% of dems to the right of the median Republican?

nobar on June 12, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Deano1952 on June 12, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Lolz! Its true. The other time that comes to mind, somewhere in the very latter half of the 1700′s. Some of the political ads had been very partisan. ; )

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Ok, now imagine if 90% of the Media wasn’t controlled by liberals.

sentinelrules on June 12, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Thanks, Barack. This is all your doing.

pdigaudio on June 12, 2014 at 9:27 AM

How do the voters get away with it? I guess people like you.
Barack is a symptom of a degraded society. Not the cause of it.

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 9:32 AM

but who the f*ck are the 6% of dems to the right of the median Republican?

nobar on June 12, 2014 at 9:29 AM

My guess is some old school union guys who enjoy things like hunting and ATV’s.

Flange on June 12, 2014 at 9:33 AM

When a Political Party puts up barricades to Block
a Memorial to our VETERANS,I no longer have anything
to discuss with them…they can go to Hell,
every damn one of them…

ToddPA on June 12, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Who knew that James Carville represented the baseline for our better selves?

I think I just experienced a catharsis

Roy Rogers on June 12, 2014 at 9:37 AM

When you have an Executive Branch that rules like a king, a Dem-controlled Senate that refuses to do anything reasonable and a judiciary that routinely trumps the will of the people with their own ideology it tends to ratchet up the intensity of the debate. But clearly there have been other times in our political history where partisanship and ideological silos existed. This comes and goes over time depending on the nature of our leadership in the three branches of government. Those who ignore history……..

ehscott on June 12, 2014 at 9:38 AM

I looked around at some of the old political attack ads. Just as I suspected. They used a lot of snakes back then as well.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 9:39 AM

The differences between conservatives and libs are obvious on their faces. Don’t need no Pew. Libs believe in the Collective, ruled by a strong, over arching gummint dictating every facet of their collective rat lives. Conservatives believe in the value of the individual and the personal liberty, independence and accountability that go hand in hand with existence outside of cave dwelling urbanites. They believe that a Supreme Being guides their lives, not Bloomberg.

vnvet on June 12, 2014 at 9:39 AM

Maybe that’s why James is sometimes referred to as Serpent Head.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Maybe that’s why James is sometimes referred to as Serpent Head.

Bmore on June 12, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Bmore: Ugh,..me thinks,…the Forked Tongue!:)
(sarc)

canopfor on June 12, 2014 at 9:51 AM

The Republicans have not moved to the right. If anything the Republicans have moved a bit to the left. It’s that since the 60′s the Democrats have moved so far to the left on social issues, that the republicans appear to have moved. The Dems have moved left on Abortion, Traditional marriage, divorce, premarital sex, drug use, religion. That’s just to name a few of the top of my head.

Kjeil on June 12, 2014 at 9:51 AM

Here is the issue, as I see it:

Democrat/Media Glossary:

Bi-partisan = Rs agree with the D position.

Compromise = Rs abandon their position, agree to D position.

With less bi-partisan compromise, we get more polarization.

HornHiAceDeuce on June 12, 2014 at 9:52 AM

How do the voters get away with it? I guess people like you.
Barack is a symptom of a degraded society. Not the cause of it.

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 9:32 AM

Yes and no.

You shouldn’t have to be a political activist to get the real story about what’s going on in DC. Obama presented himself as a moderate in 2008, and the media ran with it. Not us, but enough people believed it.

Then, he stuffed all his first time lies into the closet with just enough room that they didn’t explode out until after the 2012 elections. Some people caught on in time for the election – he lost 2% of his vote share, but it was not enough to defeat him.

crrr6 on June 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

If you took a far left democrat from 20 years ago and brought him forward in time he would be likely described as a moderate now.

This is the fundamental problem of American politics – we’ve shifted too far left.

18-1 on June 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM

crrr6 on June 12, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Politicians lie. Fact of life since politicians existed. What is different today is that too many people who the power of the vote are too ignorant and stupid, fat and happy, on the dole, to actually do their DUE DILIGENCE in selecting a person to vote for.

Obama ain’t nothing special outside the fact that he came along at a time when Americans are just stupid enough, lazy enough, and pathetic enough to vote for him.

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM

but who the f*ck are the 6% of dems to the right of the median Republican?

There are a fair number of committed Democrats who share conservative values but will vote for the former no matter what for various reasons. I would actually expect it is many time 6%…

18-1 on June 12, 2014 at 10:08 AM

If it’s gotten “meaner” it’s because righties are fighting back better, for decades we’ve been assaulted with little real return fire.

“Meaner” equals “Defending Ourselves”.

Bishop on June 12, 2014 at 9:17 AM

This. I think the GOP establishment was forged in the aftermath of the New Deal. They felt they had to be like the Dems if they were to win any elections, the forty years wandering in the desert notwithstanding. I think we’re finally coming out of that mindset. The GOPe thinks it’s foolhardy and the Dems think it’s mean.

Occams Stubble on June 12, 2014 at 10:20 AM

Pew poll shows polarization and partisan antipathy on the rise

B-b-baby, you just ain’t seen n-n-nothing yet.

David Blue on June 12, 2014 at 10:23 AM

I can remember my early school years-1940 & 41 and my friends yelling at me that Democrats (Roosevelt) was for the working man. My Dad couldn’t stand F D R and was fighting to stay out of the union where he worked. I have never seen political bliss of “working together”.

Herb on June 12, 2014 at 10:27 AM

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 10:06 AM

All of that is true, but it’s undeniable that the media and culture has become more partisan than any point that certainly I can ever remember and maybe ever in this country. That has a profound effect on influencing semi-engaged people who might otherwise be sympathetic to our arguments.

You can’t even turn on the TV wouldn’t getting spoon-fed propaganda. Even if you just want to watch a freaking football game, you’re going to get lectured about gun control. Just the osmosis from the daily barrage of garbage shoveled by these TV execs is enough to inflict enormous amounts of damage on the country and it has.

crrr6 on June 12, 2014 at 10:28 AM

On the other hand, I do think that politics has gotten meaner, in both the current and archaic senses of the word. It has become both more petty and more angry, although that’s strictly a personal observation and not one that has any data set to back it up, save the Pew poll.

Ed, this quote is as if you were in my mind. There is an US vs them mentality in politics right now that is toxic. Everyone that doesn’t agree with me about X is a traitor, an America hater, a stupid person, blah blah blah. On so many blogs people comment as if they were fighting a war. From my strictly personal observation politics is meaner and angrier. And to be honest, political blogs help feed that anger, so we all have our part we play. :-)

coolrepublica on June 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM

Is Pew aware that in the 1800′s one Congressman beat the crap out of another Congressman on the floor of the House? US Politics has always been nasty.

GarandFan on June 12, 2014 at 10:31 AM

crrr6 on June 12, 2014 at 10:28 AM

The only way those propaganda stations remain in business is if the people make it profitable to them to remain in business…

Again, it all goes back to the people.

We were too weak to stamp out the communists back in McCarthy’s day.
We were too weak to stamp out the communist take over of the colleges and universities.
We were too weak to stamp out the communist takeover of the public schools.
We were too weak to stand up to the communist takeover of the unions.
We were too weak to stand up to hollywood becoming the propaganda arm of the communists.
We were too weak to stand up to the communist take over of the news stations and news papers.

Well, all those little failures add up to something. It is the people. They are all too weak and pathetic to care about what is right and wrong.

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 10:42 AM

…JugEars…is a Healer!

KOOLAID2 on June 12, 2014 at 10:58 AM

The Republicans have not moved to the right. If anything the Republicans have moved a bit to the left. It’s that since the 60′s the Democrats have moved so far to the left on social issues, that the republicans appear to have moved. The Dems have moved left on Abortion, Traditional marriage, divorce, premarital sex, drug use, religion. That’s just to name a few of the top of my head.

Kjeil on June 12, 2014 at 9:51 AM

The GOP platform in 1976 recognized differing views on abortion, and asked for public dialogue while still supporting a constitutional amendment. Subsequent platforms limited and then eliminated any mention of differing views: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/aug/31/opinion/la-oe-0831-kinsley-abortion-gop-platform-20120831

So in one sense, the GOP has moved to the right on this issue.

jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 11:06 AM

Good!

I don’t want any Mother effing Democreep so much as breathing
the same air as me.

ToddPA on June 12, 2014 at 9:22 AM

They do. though.

Ed’s comment that “Liberals are far more likely to seek out living space in dense urban areas, while conservatives are far more likely to look for suburban or exurban living space” is true.

But his next comment seems wrong to me: “As a consequence, we see low levels of coexistence within living communities, although that doesn’t touch on other communal arrangements like families and worship communities.”

Even in some of the Reddest suburbs, you’ll find about 30-40% of the vote goes to Democrats. I wouldn’t call those percentages “low levels of coexistence” (It’s lower in rural areas, but even there about 20% of the vote goes to Democrats.)

Click on this map of Texas to see the voting percentages by county.

http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/state.php?fips=48

jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Thus spaketh the man who gave us the Politics of Personal Destruction.

formwiz on June 12, 2014 at 11:24 AM

The usual reminder is called for: Pew is the most corrupt and the most politically biased of the major pollsters. They have admitted that in the past they tilted their polls and used push-polling to get the results that they wanted and to drive Congress to do what they wanted. They claim to have been a driving force behind McCain-Feingold.

slickwillie2001 on June 12, 2014 at 11:27 AM

To be expected when Progressives simply cannot acknowledge
F-A-C-T-S as truth, idiots like Pelosi say “Republicans will allow women to die on the floor”, and you have a President who acts solely out of partisanship and without regard for the Rule of Law.

Oh and don’t forget the attempts by Progs to silence ANY opposing voices (IRS scandal anyone?)…

Don’t worry – the next generation is catching on and will realize this is what stifles their abilities to succeed.

Pelosi Schmelosi on June 12, 2014 at 11:32 AM

I think partisan antipathy in the US got distinctly worse after what happened in FL in the 2000 election. Demoncrats felt GWB lost, and still haven’t gotten over it, constantly releasing a stream of hatred toward the Right ever since. And because of how they’re built psychologically, they never will get over it.

An example of their special brand of idiocy.

John Fugelsang claims ‘right-wing Christians’ would ‘nail [Jesus] all over again’ From a Noah Rothman tweet: “Louis Goehmert and his ilk would be the first ones lining up to nail him all over again.” – John Fugelsang on Jesus.

Yes, because right-wing Christians, not leftists, are the type who tolerate the deaths of innocent people, and would have asked for Barrabbas instead of Jesus. These people are insane.

non-nonpartisan on June 12, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Barrabbas

non-nonpartisan on June 12, 2014 at 12:15 PM

There is an US vs them mentality in politics right now that is toxic. Everyone that doesn’t agree with me about X is a traitor, an America hater, a stupid person, blah blah blah.

From my view, it seems that most of the vitriol/hatred/polarization is coming from the left side of the spectrum. “Everyone that doesn’t agree with the President is a racist.” “Those TEA party extremists want to bring back slavery.”
“The Koch brothers are un-American.”

Sure, politics has always been nasty, to some degree. But when the leaders of the country, such as the President and the Senate Majority Leader (preceded by the former House Majority leader) make outrageous statements about the morals — or lack thereof — of the other side, attacking the very people that they are supposed to represent in the process … then the toxicity grows.

On so many blogs people comment as if they were fighting a war. From my strictly personal observation politics is meaner and angrier. And to be honest, political blogs help feed that anger, so we all have our part we play. :-)

coolrepublica on June 12, 2014 at 10:30 AM

And exactly what part are YOU playing here?

Alien on June 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Along the lines with what astonerii says at the top:

It makes sense that as the government was more local, people’s political concerns reflected more local concerns. So what that means is that the perpetrators of centralized, all-encompassing government own this polarization.

That’s right, libs, the form of government that you prescribe polarizes the people who are not so sure you should be making that decision for everybody.

Axeman on June 12, 2014 at 12:36 PM

If only the extremist, doctrinaire leftists would come to the table, compromise in good faith, and actually listen to an alternate viewpoint.

They are obviously outside the mainstream, and also obviously wish to damage our country with their dangerous extremist viewpoints.

Then, and only then, the partisanship and gridlock might begin to ease.

Until that time, the leftists are holding our country hostage.

GrassMudHorsey on June 12, 2014 at 12:54 PM

If only the extremist, doctrinaire leftists would come to the table, compromise in good faith, and actually listen to an alternate viewpoint.

They are obviously outside the mainstream, and also obviously wish to damage our country with their dangerous extremist viewpoints.

Then, and only then, the partisanship and gridlock might begin to ease.

Until that time, the leftists are holding our country hostage.

GrassMudHorsey on June 12, 2014 at 12:54 PM

The internet is a large part of the problem today. People sitting around a table would never call each other 90% of the crap that is part of the comments on most blogs. And sitting around a table is interactive, rather than fake-interactive on the internet.

I have no doubt that we as a nation could come to some well-thought out compromises that would be more effective than the status quo if a group of ten people were to sit around a table and look for solutions on some issues.

jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

I do think that politics has gotten meaner, … both more petty and more angry, … . But has ideological polarization caused that, or does it come from a larger cultural corrosion created by the celebration of derision and a nihilistic social trend? … those issues look cultural rather than political. Pew may be highlighting the symptoms, but missing the disease.

Very insightful, Ed. Coarse, violent, selfish, & profane behavior has become commonplace in our culture — influenced/encouraged largely by popular cinema, music, and sports, but also by (as you suggest) a general tilt towards nihilism. And it’s amplified by the huge soapbox that social media now provides to everyone. This downhill trend has infected all walks of life, not just politics, so it’s no surprise that political discourse has become rancid. I certainly don’t mind passionate disagreement and polarization in politics — that is almost inevitable, by definition. But what’s depressing is the coarseness & mean-spiritedness of politics — and societal interaction in general.

KS Rex on June 12, 2014 at 1:18 PM

jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

Amen to that.

KS Rex on June 12, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Things like this. That’s why we’re becoming polarized. Some people are becoming weapons-grade stupid.

Axeman on June 12, 2014 at 2:08 PM

@jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

I thank you for your thoughtful response, jim56.

However, I was merely parroting the leftist tropes I’ve heard since roughly forever, with the slight change of accusing the left of all they accuse the eeeeeeevil conservatives of being.

GrassMudHorsey on June 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Pew poll shows polarization and partisan antipathy on the rise

Simple, really. The left hates the right and believes they are evil.

And the right knows how much the left hates them.

Polarization naturally flows. But please, let’s not have a discussion about polarization and forget the most polarizing one of them all, He Who Will Not Negotiate With Republicans But Has No Problem Negotiating With Terrorists. Or HWWNNWRBHNPNWT, for short.

Ok, that acronym may never catch on.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 12, 2014 at 5:09 PM

@jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 1:11 PM

I thank you for your thoughtful response, jim56.

However, I was merely parroting the leftist tropes I’ve heard since roughly forever, with the slight change of accusing the left of all they accuse the eeeeeeevil conservatives of being.

GrassMudHorsey on June 12, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Thanks. I think both sides are guilty of demonizing the other. It would be better if we sat down and talked, instead of fighting over the internet.

jim56 on June 12, 2014 at 5:44 PM

As the foot print of government becomes larger and effects an individuals life more and more, the imperative to make that footprint lighter on oneself increases exponentially.
Ask yourself if the government is getting more intrusive into people’s lives and you can calculate how partisan they are going to be.

astonerii on June 12, 2014 at 9:15 AM

Exactly. As people find that they can’t buy their health insurance anymore, or see their doctor, or buy affordable gas, or lose their home to a shopping center via “eminent domain”, or lose their farm so that a minnow can live, or are told that they must provide birth control and abortificants against their religion, or lose their job due to over-regulation, or find out that they can’t buy an Edison light bulb anymore, etc., etc., etc., they begin to take a very negative view of a government that is intruding upon every single facet of their lives. This polarization is a direct result of the ever-expanding, ever-expensive, ever-intruding and ever-controlling government upon the people.

What you are seeing is the end result of the communists on the left deciding to go all in against the people of this country. Just look at the way that Obamacare was passed- with on a purely partisan vote, without any conservative input whatsoever, without a chance to air or read the bill, using bribes and kickbacks and using the reconciliation process to get it through the Senate, all completely against the will of the American people.

Theophile on June 12, 2014 at 7:02 PM