We are not giving away state secrets when we say that political partisanship is one of the most significant ruptures among Americans. A December 2017 poll by Pew Research Center asked Americans to describe the conflicts between various groups. Partisanship ranked far higher as a point of conflict than race, income, community or age.
It was nonetheless surprising to see the results of another poll, conducted by the research organization PRRI in cooperation with the Atlantic and published this week. The research was focused on evaluating diversity in the United States and covered a range of questions centered on differences that exist within American society.
Among the most surprising results? The pollsters asked both Democrats and Republicans how they would feel if their child brought home a spouse who differed by sexual orientation, identity, party, religion or race. The spouse that would make the most Republicans unhappy was if their child announced plans to marry someone who identified as transgender.
Among Democrats? If the child planned to marry a Republican.
That’s a stark finding — but it deserves some context.
First of all, you’ll notice that Republican discomfort with a child marrying someone who identified as transgender or who shared the child’s gender is substantially higher than the percent of Democrats who would oppose welcoming a Republican into the family. Overall, Democrats are more laissez-faire about who their children marry than Republicans.
That said, setting aside Republicans, the preferences expressed by Democrats mirror the ordering shown by Republicans. Democrats would be the second-most unhappy about a child marrying someone who identifies as transgender and third-most about a same-sex marriage.
Those results overlap with another question asked by PRRI. The pollsters also asked how often people encountered those who belonged to different racial, religious or sexual orientation categories than themselves. The differences between the parties on religion were not significant, but those on race and sexual orientation were.
Democrats were more likely to regularly encounter people from different racial or ethnic groups and people of different sexual orientations than Republicans. Members of both parties were less likely to encounter people of different sexual orientations than people from different racial groups.
The implication is that familiarity breeds comfort. Both Democrats and Republicans are more likely to embrace a son- or daughter-in-law of a different race or ethnicity than one who is the same gender as their child. Democrats are more likely to embrace a new in-law of either group than Republicans.
They probably don’t need to worry about it that much. Of those surveyed by PRRI, respondents were slightly more likely to say they ran into people of a different race or religion than themselves with regularity than they were to say they encountered people from a different political party. Twenty-three percent of respondents said they seldom or never run into people from the opposing political party.
Hard to marry someone you have never met.