New poll sheds light on deep political divide in US

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A new poll sheds light on Americans’ distrust of the federal government and members of opposing political parties, painting a grim picture of the state of partisan politics across the country.


What do you want to know

  • New poll highlights Americans’ distrust of federal government and members of opposing political parties
  • Across all parties, more than a quarter of voters – 28% – agreed that “it may soon be necessary for the citizens to take up arms against the government”.
  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents who identified as Republicans or Independents agreed the government was “corrupt and rigged” against them, compared to about 50% of Democrats.
  • The poll reflects “the dangerous level of estrangement that many Americans feel toward each other and from our democratic institutions,” the authors wrote in part.

The study was conducted in May by the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics in partnership with GOP pollster Neil Newhouse, who served as the lead pollster for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and again for the Mitt Romney’s presidential bid in 2012, and Joel Benenson, who served on both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns and acted as chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2016.

Across all parties, more than a quarter of voters – 28% – agreed that “it may soon be necessary for citizens to take up arms against the government”. Thirty-seven percent of people from both sides who own a firearm identified themselves the same way.

The numbers varied more when broken down by political party and identification within that party, with 36% of those who identified as Republicans agreeing that Americans might need to take up arms against the government, compared with 38% who identified themselves as conservatives. Only 19% of those who identified as liberals agreed with the statement, compared to 20% who identified as Democrats.

The survey also asked respondents a number of questions aimed at gathering information about how the American public views the federal government as a whole and examining the ever-widening divide between Democrats and Republicans.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents who identified as Republicans or Independents agreed the government was “corrupt and rigged” against them, compared to about 50% of Democrats.

Just under half of all respondents said they felt “more and more […] like a stranger in my own country,” although responses varied widely by political party: 69% of those who identified as “strong Republicans” and 65% of those who identified as “very conservative” said feeling increasingly ostracized in the United States compared to just 38% of Democrats.

The poll reflects “the dangerous level of estrangement that many Americans feel toward each other and from our democratic institutions,” the authors wrote in part.

“The portrait he paints reveals not only the growing divisions we have witnessed in recent years, but also the strong feeling that the majority of the media contribute to these divisions by intentionally misleading their audiences to promote a political point of view”, have they added.

Newhouse also noted that while political polarization has increased in recent years, the new poll results contain “the most stark evidence of the deep divisions in partisan attitudes that are spreading across the country.”

This evidence can be seen in the number of Democrats and Republicans who think their opposing party is “generally bullies who want to impose their political beliefs on those who disagree”, with 73% of Republicans agreeing and 74% of Democrats saying the same.

The inquiry came amid a slew of congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill, a national debate over gun reform and wavering confidence in President Joe Biden’s performance as inflation soared to the highest levels in recent history.

The survey itself is subject to a number of limitations, not the least of which is its small sample size of 1,000 registered voters nationwide.

But a number of other studies have highlighted the growing political polarization in the United States over the past decade – with the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 presidential elections providing insight into how “the division of American politics is ubiquitous compared to others”. nations,” according to Pew Research.

Pew Research and the University of Chicago poll point to increasingly partisan media sources and an increase in the number of individuals getting their news from social media as a driving force behind the growing divide between parties in the United States. .

Respondents from opposing parties had very different views on various cable news channels and social media platforms. About 47% of total respondents said they believe CNN makes a “good faith effort” to report unbiased news, compared to 37% for Fox News and 22% for Facebook and Instagram, though 52% of Americans all parties said they frequently turn to Facebook as a source of information.

But 68% of Republicans thought CNN “intentionally tries to mislead their viewers and readers in order to persuade people to take a political viewpoint,” while 64% of Democrats thought the same of Fox News.

“What this survey shows is how isolated we are in media silos and the degree of skepticism people feel about the integrity of news sources,” Benenson wrote in part of the responses. “It’s one of many challenges reflected in this data that is flashing red lights.”

Still other experts point to psychological factors behind the growing polarization.

“Existential fear seems to be at the heart of what drives polarization,” Kirk Schneider, an expert in existential-humanistic therapy, told the American Psychological Association in early 2021, adding, “One of the reasons why we tend to become obsessed and polarized is because of individual and collective trauma that comes together with a deep sense of worthlessness.

Contributing to the problem could be so-called identity stacking, in which identifiers like race, religion and regional location draw on partisan politics – a particularly American issue that has been the subject of extensive research in the during the last decades.

There are, of course, a number of organizations working to bridge these gaps – including Braver Angels, a New York-based nonprofit erected in the wake of the 2016 presidential election, which aims to foster the personal ties between Democrats and Republicans to show what the two parties have in common.

“We’re trying to model what constructive cross-partisan discourse might look like in the media space,” co-founder Ciaran O’Connor said in a recent interview. “Our real goal is to build a national movement to bridge the gap and hold the country together as things become more polarized — and more dangerously polarized.”

The group is hosting a public meeting on “skills to bridge the gap” in Illinois this Wednesday.

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