Partisan polarization has long been a fact of political life in the United States. But increasingly, Republicans and Democrats view not just the opposing party but also the people in that party in a negative light. Growing shares in each party now describe those in the other party as more closed-minded, dishonest, immoral and unintelligent than other Americans.
Perhaps the most striking change is the extent to which partisans view those in the opposing party as immoral. In 2016, about half of Republicans (47%) and slightly more than a third of Democrats (35%) said those in the other party were a lot or somewhat more immoral than other Americans. Today, 72% of Republicans regard Democrats as more immoral, and 63% of Democrats say the same about Republicans.
The pattern is similar with other negative partisan stereotypes: 72% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats say people in the opposing party are more dishonest than other Americans. Fewer than half in each party said this six years ago. Large majorities in both parties also describe those in the other party as more closed-minded than other Americans (83% of Democrats and 69% of Republicans say this), and this sentiment also has increased in recent years.
Yet there is one negative trait that Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to link to their political opponents. A 62% majority of Republicans say Democrats are “more lazy” than other Americans, up from 46% in previous studies in 2019 and 2016. Only about a quarter of Democrats (26%) say Republicans are lazier than others, and this has changed only modestly since 2016.
The new survey on parties and partisanship by Pew Research Center, conducted among 6,174 Americans between June 27 and July 4, 2022, on the nationally representative American Trends Panel, finds that negative sentiment – the belief that the opposing party’s policies are harmful to the country – remains a major factor in why Republicans and Democrats choose to affiliate with their party.
In fact, nearly equal shares of Republicans cite the harm caused by Democratic policies (78%) and the positive impact of GOP policies (76%) as major reasons why they identify with their party. This also is the case for Democrats, with identical shares (68% each) citing these negative and positive reasons for their decision to affiliate with the Democratic Party.