Pew: American Political Polarization at 20-Year High

Image: Pew: American Political Polarization at 20-Year High

Thursday, 12 Jun 2014 08:03 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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The ideological divide between liberals and conservatives is vast and growing, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, which found a marked increase in partisan animosity over the past 20 years.

The survey’s purpose was to understand "the nature and scope of political polarization in the American public, and how it interrelates with government, society and people’s personal lives."

The percentage of Americans who hold either consistently conservative or consistently liberal positions on major issues has doubled over the past decade and now accounts for 20 percent of all Americans.

While 39 percent hold equally liberal and conservative positions on issues, the most politically active have become increasingly partisan and entrenched in their positions, according to the survey.

"Many of those in the center remain on the edges of the political playing field, relatively distant and disengaged, while the most ideologically oriented and politically rancorous Americans make their voices heard through greater participation in every stage of the political process," according to Pew, which found that "on measure after measure – whether primary voting, writing letters to officials, volunteering for or donating to a campaign … amplifying the voices that are the least willing to see the parties meet each other halfway."

Americans who view themselves as consistently conservative or consistently liberal is at a 20-year peak and the intense antipathy each side feels toward the other has doubled since 1994, when Bill Clinton was president.
"Today, 92 percent of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, compared with 64 percent twenty years ago," the survey found. "And 94 percent of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, up from 70% in 1994."

These Americans’ views are so polarized that "most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party’s policies are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being,"

Political views spill over into virtually every area of partisan Americans’ lives, according to the study of 10,013 people, including where they prefer to live and with whom they associate.

Sixty-three percent of consistent conservatives and 49 percent of consistent liberals – compared with 25 percent of those with mixed ideological views – told Pew that most of their close friends share their political views.

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