Americans have always disagreed with each other. But they seem to be disagreeing by a wider margin these days on more issues.
Take the National Rifle Association. Americans have long disagreed over the value of that 147-year-old advocacy group and its goals and its tactics and the Second Amendment and its meaning and modern merits.
But a new survey by Gallup this summer finds the widest disagreement on the NRA since the polling organization began testing those opinions last century.
A majority of all Americans (53 percent) view the NRA favorably, to 42 percent unfavorably. But wait! The favorable rating is down five points in just three years. And the unfavorable is up seven points in the same period.
When the survey examines the country by political party, the gap becomes a chasm.
In its latest poll, Gallup found that 88 percent of Republicans view the NRA very or mostly favorably. Democrats, on the left hand, view the outfit the same by only 24 percent.
That’s a whopping 64 percent division in positive feelings, the largest margin Gallup has ever encountered on the NRA.
When Gallup first began asking this question in 1989, nearly two-thirds of Republicans (64 percent) and almost half of Democrats (49 percent) viewed the NRA favorably. That’s a 15 point gap. But it’s now quadrupled to 64.
These results fit a pattern of increasing partisanship among Americans on numerous issues. For politicians, it’s great news during a crucial election year like this one. Their goal at such times is to divide voters, usually into two clear-cut camps, the better to ensure loyal voting and maximum turnout.
In that sense, the NRA and gun ownership in general is likely to become a political litmus test for both parties. Another now will be the confirmation struggle over President Trump’s next nominee to the Supreme Court, which the president says is coming July 9.
On Nov. 6 these issues seem likely to benefit the GOP more, where election enthusiasm seemed slim without Trump on the ballot. Democrats already appeared very enthused for the midterms, driven by an abiding antipathy to anything Trump.