Pew poll finds nation more partisan, more ideological

Not much surprising in this Pew Poll on political polarization, except perhaps the very high percentage of Republicans and Democrats who believe the other party's policies are bad for America.

Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines – and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive – than at any point in the last two decades. These trends manifest themselves in myriad ways, both in politics and in everyday life. And a new survey of 10,000 adults nationwide finds that these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process.

The overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10% to 21%. And ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past. As a result, ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished: Today, 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.

Partisan animosity has increased substantially over the same period. In each party, the share with a highly negative view of the opposing party has more than doubled since 1994. Most of these intense partisans believe the opposing party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”

“Ideological silos” are now common on both the left and right. People with down-the-line ideological positions – especially conservatives – are more likely than others to say that most of their close friends share their political views. Liberals and conservatives disagree over where they want to live, the kind of people they want to live around and even whom they would welcome into their families.

And at a time of increasing gridlock on Capitol Hill, many on both the left and the right think the outcome of political negotiations between Obama and Republican leaders should be that their side gets more of what it wants.

Were we a better country 20 years ago when there was more diversity in the parties? Liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats, and moderates have disappeared or are fast disappearing - to what end? Permanent gridlock? For some on both sides, it is more important to score political points against the other side than get anything done in Washington. And on rare occassions when some kind of agreement is reached, some on both sides seek to scuttle it because either side didn't get all they wanted.

There are times when that is necessary. And then there are times when it is not. We have many national problems that can only be solved in Washington, including getting a handle on entitlements, the national debt, getting control of our borders - these are national issues that threaten American's well being and the economic health of the nation.

These problems will grow and fester because the art of compromise has been lost in Washington, and thus, the ability of the government to address national concerns is gone. As long as the extremists have outsized influence on the politics and governing  the chances of a blow up due to inaction increase substantially.

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