Political Polarization in the American Public

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.

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.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Political Polarization in the American Public”

  1. I love a lot of what Ben Carson shared in an interview on C-SPAN here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?320462-1/words-dr-ben-carson

    I especially liked how he discusses faith and science (not faith vs. science) with people who think differently than he does. I also like how he mentioned that a bird needs both a right wing and a left wing to fly, and what can happen when presidents unite people through a project(such as President Kennedy’s vision for space exploration and doing things that are hard).

    I think a lot of the antagonism we are currently witnessing is what happens when people are lax about manners. Having good manners doesn’t mean you have to agree with someone or what they are doing, but it does mean being able to consider life from their point of view, finding and helping to bring out the best in them when you can, and treating them with respect.

    My brother had a reputation in the jail where he worked in Tennessee. The inmates didn’t tend to mess with him because he did what he had to do while treating them as people, not animals. Because of how he treated everyone, a few of them used his example to clean up their own lives and live better from then on. My brother learned how to do that from my mom, who taught all of us to treat people with kindness and respect because, with some people, we may be the only ones who ever did. (This was how she taught us to treat the drug dealers and their children who lived next door to us in Southern California. They didn’t stop dealing, at least not while we lived there, but they did watch out for us, and our relationship, such as it was, ended up being a mutual blessing.) The basis of this is scriptural. (Romans 12:21)

    If either of the parties truly care about this country and its people, they will need to step up to higher ground and unite people behind a project and an ideal rather than the abuse of others. That’s my two cents, anyhow.

    Hope life is becoming happier and healthier on your end! <3 you!

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