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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Parties and Polarization

At The Washington Post, Dan Balz and Jon Cohen report on a new poll that the paper sponsored with the Kaiser Family Foundation:
Partisan polarization once was considered an affliction only of elected officials and political elites. Now it has gone mainstream. Citizens’ ties to their political parties are stronger than ever, and passions on issues are intensely felt.

Fourteen years ago, The Post, along with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, asked people to assess the strength of their allegiance to the parties. At that time, 41 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats said they considered themselves “strong” partisans. In the new Post-Kaiser survey, those numbers have shot up to 65 and 62 percent, respectively.

Over this time period, the gap between Democrats and Republicans has widened, particularly when it comes to attitudes about the federal government. A clear majority of Republicans now score highly on a series of questions about limited government. That was not the case in 1998. Also unlike in 1998, a majority of Democrats in the new survey cluster on the other end of the scale.

One set of answers is particularly revealing: The number of Republicans who feel strongly that the government controls too much of daily life jumped 24 percentage points since the 1998 survey, to 63 percent. The number of Democrats strongly disagreeing with the assertion doubled.