(ANTIMEDIA) Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of each other are more vitriolic than they have been in nearly a quarter century, a new in-depth survey by the Pew Research Center released last week concluded.
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“For the first time in surveys dating to 1992, majorities in both parties express not just unfavorable but very unfavorable views of the other party,” the researchers noted [emphasis added]. “And today, sizable shares of both Democrats and Republicans say the other party stirs feelings of not just frustration, but fear and anger.”
According to the survey of 4,385 randomly selected Americans, “more than half of Democrats (55%) say the Republican Party makes them ‘afraid,’ while 49% of Republicans say the same about the Democratic Party.”
Further, “nearly half of Democrats (47%) and Republicans (46%) say the other party makes them feel angry,” and in both parties, 87% “have at least one of these negative feelings about the other party – frustration, fear or anger.”
Unsurprisingly, the more rigid one’s ideology and loyalty to party, the more powerful their disdain for those who subscribe to opposing beliefs. Additionally, the more “politically engaged” participants were, the more intense their negative feelings. For example, “58% of both Democrats and Republicans who are highly politically engaged are angered by the other party; fewer than half of those who are less engaged say the same.”
The blinders of partisanship also appear to heighten perceived differences between the left and right. “More politically engaged Republicans and Democrats also are more likely than the less engaged to see large differences between the policies of the two parties and to say the other party has almost no good ideas,” the researchers noted.
The increased animosity among the “politically engaged” aptly demonstrates the power of the “divide and conquer” tactics those in power employ to keep Americans at each other’s throats — as opposed to the throats of politicians and institutions.
While many Americans are aware of these deep, growing divisions in the United States, the Pew survey results highlight how quickly these shifts have occurred. In 1964, “the share of both parties with cold feelings toward the opposing party” was at 30%. By 1984, it had reached 45%. In 2004 it had spiked to 60%, and by 2012, “nearly 80% of Democrats and Republicans alike gave the other party a cold rating.”
The researchers also explain that while unfavorable views have risen, so have deeply unfavorable views: “in 2000 only about a quarter of both Democrats (23%) and Republicans (26%) had a very unfavorable view of the other party; by 2012 that had risen to more than four-in-ten.”
The Pew findings reinforce the results of a political paper, “All Politics is National: The Rise of Negative Partisanship and the Nationalization of U.S. House and Senate Elections in the 21st Century,” published last year by two researchers at Emory University. Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster found that “regardless of the strength of their attachment to their own party, the more voters dislike the opposing party, the greater the probability that they will vote consistently for their own party’s candidates.”
In other words, a voter’s dislike of others is a greater driving force in politics than their affinity for their own party. As the Pew survey found, “those who associate three or more negative traits with people in the opposing party (as 37% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans do) participate in politics at the highest rates.”
Even as fear and anger continue to mount, however, voters expressing these emotions are less than satisfied with their own parties. Though “substantial majorities of both Democrats (73%) and Republicans (64%) say their parties make them feel hopeful,” few go so far as to feel proud or enthusiastic.
“Only about a quarter of Democrats (26%) and a similar share of Republicans (23%) say their party makes them feel enthusiastic. Roughly a quarter of Democrats (26%) also say their party makes them feel proud, while fewer Republicans (16%) say the same about their party.”
While the Pew findings indicate two-party bias is still very much the fabric of American politics, the lack of enthusiasm so many Americans harbor for the ruling parties is a sign of evolving views. In 2016, disdain for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has pushed many voters to consider other options, including Jill Stein of the Green Party and Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party.
Until this long-term shift overtakes a majority of the population, however, negativity, fear, and self-righteousness continue to dominate the American political consciousness. According to the survey, “most partisans say that, when it comes to how Democrats and Republicans should address the most important issues facing the country, their party should get more out of the deal.” [emphasis added]
For all the perceived differences between the left and right, the Pew findings reveal just how much they have in common — most notably, their sense of entitlement to power and control of policy, and of course, their deep and growing animosity toward each other.
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