Our Country’s Political Climate Is Getting More Polarized, Study Shows


The American people are becoming increasingly at odds with one another politically, according to a new poll by Pew Research.

The survey shows that 32 percent of people in the U.S. have an approximately equal share of conservative and liberal opinions this year. In the years 1994 and 2004, this number was 49 percent. This figure was only 38 percent in 2015.

“Republicans and Democrats are now further apart ideologically than at any point in more than two decades,” Pew Research reported. 

10_23_Against_White_Supremacy New York’s Grand Central Station fills with anti-Trump protesters for the “Rise and Resist Against White Supremacy” protest. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

The study reveals that the likelihood of an American citizen to hold a combination of liberal and conservative views has decreased. This applies to views on race, immigration and homosexuality, among other topics. Pew Research also finds a growing association between partisanship and consistency of ideologies.

This is one of the biggest divides in our country right now. “The magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along [with] such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education,” Pew Research said in an earlier report.

Compared with the median values for Democrats, 95 percent of Republicans’ values are more conservative, Pew Research reports. Similarly, 97 percent of Democrats have more liberal values when compared with the Republican median. In 1994, the percentage of Republicans who were more conservative than the Democratic Party’s median was 64 percent, and the amount of Democrats that fell to the left of the GOP’s median was 70 percent.

10_23_Make_Racists_Scared_Again Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Pew adds that since the 1990s, Democrats and Republicans have become more likely to think very negatively of those whose views oppose their own. Yearly averages calculated from the Center’s surveys show that 45 percent of GOP members and right-leaners have very unfavorable views of the Democratic Party. Democrats and left-leaners nearly mirror this statistic, with 44 percent seeing the Republican Party in a strongly negative light. This is a drastic change from 1994, when this number for each party was lower than 20 percent.

“Across 10 measures that Pew Research Center has tracked on the same surveys since 1994, the average partisan gap has increased from 15 percentage points to 36 points,” Pew Research indicates.

While a correlation differs from a causation, it is possible that an explanation for this trend can be found in political events. 

“The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values—on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection and other areas—reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency,” Pew says. “In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger.”

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