Republican and Democratic Voters Increasingly Polarized on Political and Social Issues

Survey Says We Are the Disunited States of America

We may be called the United States, but we’re anything but. America has become even more polarized in recent years.

When it comes to governmental and social issues like immigration, race, and homosexuality, American voters are less likely to hold a mix of liberal and conservative views. While Americans are becoming more polarized, the shared ideological beliefs among conservatives and liberals is closely correlated with their political affiliations.

Just a third of American voters (32%) held an equal number of conservative and liberal positions on 10 questions in study by the Pew Research Center. These same questions have been asked in seven surveys since 1994. In 2015, 38% shared this mix of values; in 2004 and 1994, almost half (49%) did.

Over the last 23 years, the ideological divide between Democrats and Republicans has never been greater.


The median (midpoint) Democrat is now more liberal than 95% of Republicans, and the median Republican is now more conservative than 97% of Democrats. In 1994, Republicans and Democrats shared a lot more of the same views; 23% of Republicans were more liberal than the median Democrat and 17% of Democrats were more conservative than the median Republican. Fast forward to 2017, and those numbers have shriveled to one percent and three percent, respectively.

Overall, American values are shifting more to the left. In the 2017 survey, out of the 10 questions asked, the median American was conservative on four positions and liberal on six. In 2011, 2014, and 2015, the median American was evenly split, with five conservative and five liberal positions.

One area that accounts for the shift to the left is the growing acceptance of homosexuality. For the first time ever, a majority of Republican voters, 54%, were accepting of homosexuality. In 1994, just 38% answered in that way. For those Americans who are likely to vote Democrat, a much larger percent say homosexuality should be accepted, from 54% in 1994 to 83% in 2017. While both parties now lean to the left on that issue, overall, the partisan difference has gotten increasingly larger.

American voters also think more positively of immigration than they did in the past. A full 84% of likely Democrat voters think immigrants do more to strengthen than burden the country. That’s a big increase from 2010, when 48% of Democrats said the same thing.

Republicans remain split on their views of immigrants, and whether they contribute or are a burden to the U.S. economy. An almost-even percentage say immigrants are a burden on the country (44%) as those who say immigrants strengthen the country (42%).

On the topic of immigration, the partisan difference between Democrats and Republicans has soared to 42 points. This represents the biggest gap since Pew Research asked the questions back in 1994.

Even then, there is political divide within the parties. Of Republicans who are under 30, 62% believe immigrants strengthen the country. Of Republican voters who are over the age of 65, only 31% hold that same view.



In polarized era, fewer Americans hold a mix of conservative and liberal views,” Pew Research, October 23, 2017.