According to a new Pew Research poll, Americans are more politically polarized now than they have been at any point since 1994, and those divisions are bleeding into our personal lives. Those with the least nuanced positions are the most likely to be politically involved, which is maybe why we're in a place of such political standstill these days.
Pew reports that in 1994, only 10 percent of Americans reported having consistently conservative or consistently liberal views. In 2014, that figure has jumped to 24 percent. The shift is especially pronounced among engaged voters:
The rise of ideological uniformity has been much more pronounced among those who are the most politically active. Today, almost four-in-ten (38%) politically engaged Democrats are consistent liberals, up from just 8% in 1994. The change among Republicans since then appears less dramatic – 33% express consistently conservative views, up from 23% in the midst of the 1994 “Republican Revolution.” But a decade ago, just 10% of politically engaged Republicans had across-the-board conservative attitudes.
Not only have we grown more stubborn in our beliefs, but we have also grown more suspicious of our political counterparts. According to the poll, 27 percent of Democrats say Republican policies are a threat to the nation, and 36 percent of Republicans feel the opposite way. Pew also reports that 63 percent of consistently conservative Republicans say their friends share their political perspective, as do 49 percent of consistent liberals.
In fact, our devotion to our parties have become almost comically stereotypical. Per Pew:
Far more liberals than conservatives think it is important that a community have racial and ethnic diversity (76% vs. 20%). At the same time, conservatives are more likely than liberals to attach importance to living in a place where many people share their religious faith (57% vs. 17% of liberals).Three-quarters of consistent conservatives prefer a community where “the houses are larger and farther apart, but schools, stores, and restaurants are several miles away.” The preferences of consistent liberals are almost the exact inverse, with 77% saying they’d chose to live where “the houses are smaller and closer to each other, but schools, stores, and restaurants are within walking distance.”
Maybe our political divisions aren't that surprising, after all.