The Divided States of America, in 25 Charts

Six in 10 Americans believe the nation is more fragmented that it was during Vietnam, Watergate, and the Great Depression. Happy Fourth of July.

Every day we hear about how society is splitting apart -- a polarized Congress, a fragmented media market, a persistent schism among Americans over social issues. But really, how bad are the divisions?

They're pretty bad, according to the results of The Atlantic/Aspen Institute American Values Survey released today. "As American approaches its 237th birthday, it's feeling quite a bit more "pluribus" than "unum," say Don Baer and Mark Penn elsewhere on this site, in their full analysis of the survey results. Below, find a visual summary of the findings of the poll.

Just 35 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction...

p4 2013.PNG

...but that figure represents a slight increase in optimism over responses in recent years.


Six in 10 say the economy is on the wrong track, down from two-thirds in 2012...


...and economic issues, which are a less dire concern than they were a year ago, continue to outweigh other factors on the list of most important topics facing the country.


Six in 10 say America has grown more divided in the last decade...


...and Americans believe we are more divided today than at any time since the Great Depression -- with the exception of the Civil Rights era.


In fact, one in five doubt that America will remain united as one country going forward.


Looking over the last decade, the period after 9/11 represented America at its most unified...


...and that answer is the same if you extend the question to cover all of American history.


Equal opportunity and freedom of speech play the biggest role in unifying America...


...while blame for division falls mostly on Washington and its leaders.


In fact, more than 6 in 10 Americans, including a plurality of Republicans, say elected officials "mainly reflect the values of the wealthy."


But there is hope! Three-quarters of Americans believe it is very important for America to be united...


...while 70 percent say it is possible for politicians to come together on key issues that matter to the country.


And they have solutions -- mostly aimed at fixing the leadership they believe is broken.



President Obama is both the most unifying and the most divisive figure in America.


The most divisive social issues are reflected in the big news stories of the day.


More than half say the free-market economy helps the American Dream...


...two-thirds say the free enterprise system unites us...


...and four out of five say reducing the gap between the rich and the poor is important.


Fewer Americans are embracing religion...


...but six in 10 believe religion unites us...


...and half reject a clear choice between evolution and creationism.


Finally, as we approach the Fourth of July, Americans say that, of the key phrases in the Pledge of Allegiance, "one nation" applies most and "indivisible" least.


Presented by

Bob Cohn is the president and chief operating officer of The Atlantic. He was previously the editor of Atlantic Digital, the executive editor of Wired and The Industry Standard, and a writer at Newsweek. More

As The Atlantic's president and chief operating officer, Cohn oversees business and revenue operations for the company’s print, digital, and live-events divisions. He came to the job in March 2014 after five years as the editor of Atlantic Digital, where he built and managed teams at TheAtlantic.comThe Wire, and The Atlantic Cities.

Before coming to The Atlantic, Cohn worked for eight years as the executive editor of Wired, where he helped the magazine find a mainstream following and earn a national reputation. During the dot-com boom, he was the executive editor of The Industry Standard, a newsweekly covering the Internet economy. In the late 1990s, he served as editor and publisher of Stanford magazine. He began his journalism career at Newsweek, where for 10 years he was a correspondent in the Washington bureau, at various times covering the Supreme Court, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Clinton White House.

In 2013, won the National Magazine Award for best website. During Cohn’s tenure at Wired, the magazine was nominated for 11 National Magazine Awards and won six, including honors for general excellence in 2005, 2007, and 2009. As a writer, Cohn won a Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association for coverage of the Clarence Thomas confirmation process.

A graduate of Stanford, Cohn has a masters in legal studies from Yale Law School. He lives outside Washington, D.C., with his wife and two daughters.

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