America

It's Not Your Imagination: Americans Are More Polarized, Says Pew

Linda Door of Laguna Beach, Calif. protests against the health care reform law as supporters file past the Supreme Court in Washington, last March. i i

hide captionLinda Door of Laguna Beach, Calif. protests against the health care reform law as supporters file past the Supreme Court in Washington, last March.

Charles Dharapak/AP
Linda Door of Laguna Beach, Calif. protests against the health care reform law as supporters file past the Supreme Court in Washington, last March.

Linda Door of Laguna Beach, Calif. protests against the health care reform law as supporters file past the Supreme Court in Washington, last March.

Charles Dharapak/AP

It's not just our politicians who are divided. According to a new report (pdf) from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, Americans' values and "basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years."

The average percentage point difference on questions about political values has surged during the Bush and Obama years. When Pew started the survey in 1987 the average difference was 10 percentage points; in 2012, it was 18 percentage points.

Here's that graph:

A graph from Pew.

hide captionA graph from Pew.

Pew

And here's the kicker: The study found that the division has increased almost exclusively along party lines. Pew reports:

"With regard to the broad spectrum of values, basic demographic divisions – along lines such as gender, race, ethnicity, religion and class – are no wider than they have ever been. Men and women, whites, blacks and Hispanics, the highly religious and the less religious, and those with more and less education differ in many respects. However, these differences have not grown in recent years, and for the most part pale in comparison to the overwhelming partisan divide we see today."

To understand this report, it's easier to simply look at the questions that were answered and look at how the responses have changed throughout the years. You can browse through all of them, but we'll give you three examples:

— "There needs to be stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment": In 2012, 93 percent of Democrats agreed with that. 47 percent of Republicans agreed. In 1992, those numbers were 93 percent and 86 percent.

— "Labor unions are necessary to protect the working person": In 2012, 82 percent of Democrats agreed; 43 percent of Republicans agreed. In 1987, those numbers were 76 and 58.

— "Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good": In 2012, 41 percent of Democrats agreed, while 76 percent of Republicans agreed. Those numbers were 50 and 61 in 1987.

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