lunes, 23 de octubre de 2017

The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider

Rubén Weinsteiner

Sharp shifts among Democrats on aid to needy, race, immigration

The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values – on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection and other areas – reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger.

And the magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education.

A new study by Pew Research Center, based on surveys of more than 5,000 adults conducted over the summer, finds widening differences between Republicans and Democrats on a range of measures the Center has been asking about since 1994, as well as those with more recent trends. But in recent years, the gaps on several sets of political values in particular – including measures of attitudes about the social safety net, race and immigration – have increased dramatically.

Government aid to needy. Over the past six years, the share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying the government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, has risen 17 percentage points (from 54% to 71%), while the views of Republicans and Republican leaners have barely changed (25% then, 24% today). However, Republicans’ opinions on this issue had shifted substantially between 2007 and 2011, with the share favoring more aid to the needy falling 20 points (from 45% to 25%).

The result: While there has been a consistent party gap since 1994 on government aid to the poor, the divisions have never been this large. In 2011, about twice as many Democrats as Republicans said the government should do more for the needy (54% vs. 25%). Today, nearly three times as many Democrats as Republicans say this (71% vs. 24%).

Racial discrimination. In recent years, Democrats’ views on racial discrimination also have changed, driving an overall shift in public opinion. Currently, 41% of Americans say racial discrimination is the main reason many blacks cannot get ahead – the largest share expressing this view in surveys dating back 23 years. Still, somewhat more Americans (49%) say blacks who cannot get ahead are mostly responsible for their own condition.

When the racial discrimination question was first asked in 1994, the partisan difference was 13 points. By 2009, it was only somewhat larger (19 points). But today, the gap in opinions between Republicans and Democrats about racial discrimination and black advancement has increased to 50 points.

Immigration. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65%) say immigrants strengthen the country “because of their hard work and talents.” Just 26% say immigrants are a burden “because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” Views of immigrants, though little changed from a year ago, are more positive than at any point in the past two decades.

As with views of racial discrimination, there has been a major shift in Democrats’ opinions about immigrants. The share of Democrats who say immigrants strengthen the country has increased from 32% in 1994 to 84% today. By contrast, Republicans are divided in attitudes about immigrants: 42% say they strengthen the country, while 44% view them as a burden. In 1994, 30% of Republicans said immigrants strengthened the country, while 64% said they were a burden.

“Peace through strength.” About six-in-ten Americans (61%) say good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, while 30% say peace is ensured by military strength. Opinions in both parties have changed since the 1990s; Democrats increasingly say peace is ensured by good diplomacy, while Republicans say it is military strength that ensures peace. Today, 83% of Democrats and Democratic leaners see good diplomacy as the way to ensure peace, compared with just 33% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

The surveys were conducted June 8-18 among 2,504 adults and June 27-July 9 among 2,505 adults, with a follow-up survey conducted Aug. 15-21 among 1,893 respondents. This report was made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the surveys from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Party gaps much larger than demographic differences

The partisan shifts on political values over the past 23 years have had different trajectories across different sets of issues. While there has been greater movement among Democrats than Republicans on several issues, on others Republicans have shown more change.

In views of stricter environmental laws and regulations, for example, there has been a larger long-term change among Republicans than Democrats. Republicans are far less supportive of stricter environmental laws than they were in the mid-1990s, while Democrats have become somewhat more supportive.

But the bottom line is this: Across 10 measures that Pew Research Center has tracked on the same surveys since 1994, the average partisan gap has increased from 15 percentage points to 36 points.

Two decades ago, the average partisan differences on these items were only somewhat wider than differences by religious attendance or educational attainment and about as wide as the differences between blacks and whites (14 points, on average). Today, the party divide is much wider than any of these demographic differences.

Partisan gaps have grown even on measures in which opinion in both parties has moved in the same direction, such as support for societal acceptance of homosexuality. Currently, 70% of Americans say homosexuality should be accepted – the highest percentage ever.

For the first time, a majority of Republicans (54%) favor acceptance of homosexuality; just 38% did so in 1994. Yet over this period, the increase in the share of Democrats saying homosexuality should be accepted has been much larger (from 54% to 83%). As a result, partisan differences have gotten larger.

The surveys find that while Republicans and Democrats have grown further apart, there are sizable divisions within both parties on many political values. Younger Republicans differ from older Republicans in attitudes about immigration and several other issues. Among Republicans and Republican leaners younger than 30, 62% say immigrants strengthen the country; half as many Republicans ages 65 and older say the same (31%).

In recent years, there has been a decline in the share of Democrats who say that most people can get ahead if they work hard. Only about half of Democrats (49%) express this view, down from 58% three years ago. A large majority of Republicans (77%) continue to say hard work pays off for most people.

Democrats are divided by education and race in their views of hard work and success. White Democrats and those with higher levels of education are less likely than nonwhite Democrats and those with less education to say that hard work leads to success.
Other important findings

Partisan antipathy remains extensive. The shares of Republicans and Democrats who express very unfavorable opinions of the opposing party have increased dramatically since the 1990s, but have changed little in recent years. Currently, 44% of Democrats and Democratic leaners have a very unfavorable opinion of the GOP, based on yearly averages of Pew Research Center surveys; 45% of Republicans and Republican leaners view the Democratic Party very unfavorably. In 1994, fewer than 20% in both parties viewed the opposing party very unfavorably.

Big house, small house. Our studies of political polarization and partisan antipathy both found that the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats go far beyond political values and issues. They also have markedly different preferences about where they would like to live. Most Republicans (65%) say they would rather live in a community where houses are larger and farther apart and where schools and shopping are not nearby. A majority of Democrats (61%) prefer smaller houses within walking distance of schools and shopping.

Deep differences over factors for nation’s success. About half of Americans (52%) attribute the country’s success more to “its ability to change,” while 43% say the nation’s “reliance on long-standing principles” has been more important. Most Democrats (68%) link the nation’s success more to its ability to change, while 61% of Republicans point to its reliance on principles. In addition, there are wide age differences, with young people far more likely than older adults to say America’s success is mainly linked to its ability to change.

1. Partisan divides over political values widen

The gap between the political values of Democrats and Republicans is now larger than at any point in Pew Research Center surveys dating back to 1994, a continuation of a steep increase in the ideological divisions between the two parties over more than a decade.

The subsequent chapters explore Americans’ attitudes across individual political values and policy issues, in most cases including data dating back to the late 1990s or early 2000s. In nearly every domain, across most of the roughly two dozen values questions tracked, views of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and those of Democrats and Democratic leaners are now further apart than in the past.

While the overall partisan gap across a variety of political values has steadily grown, the dynamic underlying the growing gap differs across issue areas. In some cases, the gap has grown because the parties have moved in different directions, with growing shares of Democrats taking liberal positions and increasing shares of Republicans taking conservative positions. But in other areas, shifts are greater among one set of partisans than another.

In a few issue areas, notably views of homosexuality and of immigrants, public opinion in both parties has clearly shifted in a more liberal direction over the past several decades. Nevertheless, the partisan gaps on both of these values have gotten wider over the past two decades, as the long-term shifts are more pronounced among Democrats than Republicans.
Overall partisan gap widens over two decades

The 10 political values questions shown above have been asked together in surveys seven times since 1994. On average, there is now a 36-percentage-point difference between Democrats and Republicans across these questions. The current gap represents a modest increase in the partisan divide over the past two years (from 33 points in 2015), but it is substantially wider than two decades ago (the gap was just 15 points in 1994).

Looking at the identical set of items over more than two decades provides a picture of a growing partisan divide. While this analysis is limited to questions consistently asked together going back to 1994, other political values and policy questions that have long trends show a similar pattern of growing partisan divides.

For example, a question about whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers is not included among the 10 measures asked since 1994 (it was first asked in 2002). But partisan differences in these attitudes have increased steadily over the past 15 years. What was an 11-percentage-point difference on this question in 2002 now stands at 40 percentage points.

And a question about whether it is more important to control gun ownership or protect gun rights – first asked in 1993 – shows a similar trend of widening differences.

It is important to note that while members of the two parties have grown further apart over the past two decades, this does not necessarily mean there has been a rise in politically “extreme” thinking among either Republicans or Democrats, as Pew Research Center’s 2014 study of political polarization found.
Other societal divisions less pronounced than partisan differences

The extent of the partisan divide across the 10 political values far exceeds divisions along basic demographic lines, such as age, education, gender and race. Even so, some of these divisions also are somewhat wider than in the past.

For instance, on average, there is now a 10-percentage-point gap between Americans ages 50 and older and younger Americans on these questions. That average difference was 6 points in 1994.

And the average gap between those who regularly attend religious services and those who do not has roughly doubled over the past few decades, from just 5 percentage points in 1994 to 11 points today. To some extent, the growing gaps within these demographic groups reflect the increasing degree to which these demographics are associated with partisanship.
Ideological distance and partisanship

Using these 10 questions to create an ideological scale provides another way of illustrating changes in the public’s political values, and a growing divide along partisan lines.

Overall, although many Americans continue to hold a mix of liberal and conservative views across different issue areas, that share has declined over time.

At the same time, the center of the scale has shifted in a somewhat liberal direction over time. To a large extent, this is the result of the public’s growing acceptance of homosexuality and more positive views of immigrants, shifts that are seen among both Democrats and Republicans (GOP attitudes about immigrants are little changed over the last decade, but Republicans are substantially less likely to view immigrants as a burden on the country than they were in the 1990s).

What is the ideological consistency scale?

Reflecting the growing partisan gaps across the 10 questions (even those where both parties have shifted in the same direction), Republicans and Democrats are now further apart ideologically than at any point in more than two decades, a continuation of the trend Pew Research Center first documented with these measures in 2014. For instance, overall, on this scale of 10 political values, the median (middle) Republican is now more conservative than 97% of Democrats, and the median Democrat is more liberal than 95% of Republicans.

By comparison, in 1994 there was substantially more overlap between the two partisan groups than there is today: Just 64% of Republicans were to the right of the median Democrat, while 70% of Democrats were to the left of the median Republican. Put differently, in 1994 23% of Republicans were more liberal than the median Democrat; while 17% of Democrats were more conservative than the median Republican. Today, those numbers are just 1% and 3%, respectively.

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