In the Trump era, Americans may be more polarized now than ever. But while Americans have always known they don't all share the same politics, more of them are now questioning whether their political opponents even share their same values.
According to the most recent Pew Research Center data, among those who approve of the job that Donald Trump is doing as president, 51 percent say that people who feel differently about the president probably do not share many of their other values and goals.
And among those who disapprove of Trump’s job performance, 56 percent say that people who approve of the president probably do not share their other values and goals.
This is a vastly different response from the last time this question was asked in 2017. In July, nearly 59 percent of Democrats and nearly 56 percent of Republicans said that while members of the other party felt differently about politics, they probably shared many of their same values and goals.
But perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that there are fewer widespread perceptions of common ground. Past data from the Pew Research Center shows that the top priorities of Democrats and Republicans are indeed different.
According to a January 2017 survey, the five leading policy priorities for Republicans are:
- The economy
- Health costs
- The military
But the same survey shows the top five policy priorities for Democrats are:
- Poor people
- Race relations
But one thing to consider is what people are looking at when they're assessing their political opponents's values. John Sides, a political-science professor at George Washington University who specializes in public opinion, voting and American elections, wrote about this for The Washington Post:
Our internal pictures of the opposite party are terribly inaccurate. When asked about the groups historically associated with each party, we think these groups make up a vastly larger fraction of each party than they really do. In other words, we think each party is essentially a huge bundle of stereotypes — and this tendency is particularly pronounced when we’re characterizing the opposite party.
Unfortunately, we have very caricatured notions of who the parties are. And the more we exaggerate the differences in the social bases of each party, the more tribal partisanship becomes.
A 2016 Pew Research Center survey showed just how differently people see their political opposites. And much of that perception is negative.
Nearly half of Republicans polled in that survey said Democrats are lazy, immoral and dishonest. The overwhelming majority of Democrats said Republicans are close-minded. Large percentages of those on the left said those on the right are dishonest and immoral. And about a third of both Democrats and Republicans said they think members of the other party are unintelligent.
When a large majority in a group believe that people who don't share their political values are unintelligent, it can be really difficult, if not impossible, to find common ground.
We pay lots of attention to the lack of bipartisanship in Congress, but this data shows that the inability to get on the same page is a deeply rooted problem. Lawmakers may find it challenging to work with their colleagues across the aisle when each side represents people who think so little of the other side when it comes to making America as great as possible for everyone.