Political Polarization in the American Public
Key Shareable Findings
Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan acrimony is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in recent history. And these trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and everyday life.
Growing Ideological Consistency
As ideological consistency has become more common it is also increasingly aligned with partisanship.
- The share of Americans who are uniformly liberal or conservative has doubled to 21% over the past 20 years.
- The typical Republican is now more conservative than 94% of Democrats.
- The typical Democrat is now more liberal than 92% of Republicans.
Growing Partisan Antipathy
The level of antipathy that Republicans and Democrats feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades.
- 36% of Republicans say Democratic policies threaten the nation; 27% of Democrats say the same about GOP policies.
- 38% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans now view the opposite party in strongly negative terms.
- Republicans and Democrats with very unfavorable views of the opposing party are more likely to be politically engaged.
Political Polarization and Personal Life
Those on the opposite ends of the ideological spectrum disagree about everything from the type of community in which they prefer to live to the type of people they would welcome into their families.
- Liberals would rather live in cities, while conservatives prefer rural areas and small towns.
- Liberals are more likely than conservatives to say racial and ethnic diversity is important in a community.
- Conservatives are more likely than liberals to want to live in a place where many people share their religious faith.
- 15% of Democrats and 17% of Republicans would be unhappy welcoming someone from the other party into their family.
- 49% of Americans would be unhappy if a family member were to marry someone who doesn’t believe in God.
- Just 35% of Americans say most of their close friends share their views on government and politics.
Political Compromise and Divisive Policy Debates
The nation’s increasing ideological polarization makes political compromise more difficult, in part because those at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum see less benefit in meeting the other side halfway.
- Those on the left and right say the optimal political outcome is one in which their side gets more of what it wants.
- Those on the left prefer leaders who compromise, while those on the right prefer leaders who stick to their positions.
Political Engagement and Activism
Those who hold consistently liberal or conservative views, and who hold strongly negative views of the other political party, are far more likely to participate in the political process than the rest of the nation.
- Just 39% of those who hold a mix of liberal and conservative values vote regularly.
- Across-the-board liberals and conservatives are three times as likely to make political donations as those with mixed views.
- Republicans and Democrats with very unfavorable views of the opposing party are more likely to participate in politics.