A Pew Research study finds that America has never been more polarized, and more than ever, it’s politics, not race or class, that divides us.
The study, which looks at trends in American values-based beliefs from 1987 through 2012 finds that the “values gap” between Republicans and Democrats has never been wider. As the poll’s top-line memo states: “Republicans are most distinguished by their increasingly minimalist views about the role of government and lack of support for environmentalism. Democrats have become more socially liberal and secular. Republicans and Democrats are most similar in their level of political engagement.”
Among the key findings:
- The average partisan gap on values issues has doubled from 1987 to 2012, from 10 percent to 18 percent.
- Nearly all of the increases have taken place during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, and during both terms, the base of the respective parties have criticized their party for not standing up for traditional partisan beliefs. According to the poll, in the current survey, 71 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats say their parties have done a poor job standing up for their traditional beliefs.
- Over the last 25 years, both parties have become smaller, and more “ideologically homogeneous.” Among Republicans, conservatives now outnumber moderates by two-two one, and among Democrats, there are now just as many liberals as moderates.
- Gender, race, ethnic, religious and class divisions on values have remained stable. and while there are differences between the value systems of the highly religious and the less religious, and between the more and less educated, those differences “pale in comparison to the overwhelming partisan divide we see today.