The Divided States of America, in 25 Charts

By Bob Cohn

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...

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

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

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...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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fewer Americans are embracing religion...

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

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

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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.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/the-divided-states-of-america-in-25-charts/277303/