Divisions in the U.S. are not limited to Washington. According to a new survey on social trends, divisions in the U.S. are widening across the board when it comes to the country’s culture, economy, and social fabric.
Interestingly, the polarization among Americans began long before president Donald Trump ascended into the Oval Office. The recent findings might help explain why the political division among Americans is so difficult to reconcile.
The fact is, people who identify with either major political party increasingly disagree on politics and social and cultural values. In fact, they even see their economic outlook through a party-centric lens.
The widening chasm is visible in an array of attitudes and issues. Democrats are twice as likely to say they never go to church as Republicans are. Democrats are also eight times more likely to say they support action on climate change.
Meanwhile, one-third of Republicans say they support the National Rifle Association, while only four percent of Democrats do. Close to 70% of Democrats say they feel comfortable with societal changes that make the U.S. more diverse; less than 33% of Republicans feel the same way.
The poll also found Americans’ views of the economy, the direction of the nation, and the future are closely aligned with their feelings about President Trump. Their views are also split along educational and geographic lines.
Americans who live in rural areas and those that do not have a four-year college degree are significantly more pessimistic about the economy and are more conservative on social issues. This dynamic makes up a significantly large share of Republican voters.
Another measure showing the growing polarization of Americans is how they view the president. Eight months into Republican Dwight Eisenhower’s presidency, 60% of Democrats approved of the job he was doing.
That level of support from voters of both parties remained above 40% until Bill Clinton came along, and only 20% of Republicans approved of his performance after his first eight months in office. After the first eight months of Barack Obama’s presidency, just 16% of Republicans said he was doing a good job.
The downward trend has continued with President Trump. His overall approval rating remains at around 40%, but that number is being supported by Republican voters. Only eight percent of Democrats approve of the job he is doing, compared with 80% of Republicans who say the same.
Divisions among Americans are also widening when it comes to cultural and economic issues, including gun control, immigration, and globalization–three major platforms that Trump campaigned on.
When asked in 1995 if they were concerned the government would go too far in restricting gun-ownership rights or whether the government wouldn’t do enough, Republicans were evenly split, while Democrats were divided 26% to 67%.
Contrast that with today, where 77% of Republicans say they are concerned the government will go too far, and just 18% say the government won’t do enough. Democrats are the reverse of that, at 24% to 71%.
Views of immigration are also widening. In April 2005, 48% of voters said immigration weakened the nation, while 41% said it strengthened the U.S. In 2017, the majority of voters (64%) say it strengthens the country, while 28% say it weakens the U.S. The increase is a result of the softening views of the Democrats. In 2005, just 45% of Democrats said the country was strengthened by immigration; today, 81% say it does.
As might be expected, the polarizing views have helped shape the way the country is viewed as a whole. Fully 80% of those surveyed said the country is mainly or totally divided.
Where the division lays runs along party lines. Democrats and independents say the country’s division is rooted in economics (income gap, inequity). Republicans, meanwhile, say the polarization is political, with opinions divided based on party affiliation and which media outlets they follow.
“Political Divisions in U.S. Are Widening, Long-Lasting, Poll Shows,” The Wall Street Journal, September 6, 2017.