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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

 
There is no "center" left in America

by David Atkins

An ABC News poll confirms what most of us outside the beltway cocktail circuit already knew: America is a deeply divided country with differences that go beyond mere team spirit partisanship:

While these issues divide a variety of Americans, this poll, produced for ABC and Fusion by Langer Research Associates, finds that the gaps in nearly all cases are largest among partisan and ideological groups – so enormous and so fundamental that they seem to constitute visions of two distinctly different Americas.

Consider:

• Among all adults, 53 percent think women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace. But that ranges from 68 percent of Democrats to 38 percent of Republicans, a difference of 30 percentage points. Comparing the most unlike groups, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, it’s 76 vs. 35 percent.

• Forty-one percent overall think nonwhites have fewer opportunities than whites in society. Fifty-six percent of Democrats say so, as do 62 percent of liberal Democrats (more than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 51 percent). Among Republicans that dives to 25 percent.

• Forty-three percent of Americans say it would be a good thing if more women were elected to Congress – but the range here is from six in 10 Democrats and liberals alike to just 26 percent of conservatives and 23 percent of Republicans. Instead two-thirds or more in these latter two groups say it makes no difference to them.

• Just 23 percent overall say it would be a good thing if more nonwhites were elected to Congress; 73 percent instead say it makes no difference to them. Seeing this as a good thing peaks at 50 percent among liberal Democrats (far more, in this case, than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 29 percent). Among conservative Republicans, it’s 5 percent.

• Thirty-nine percent of adults say they trust the government in Washington to do what’s right; six in 10 don’t. Apparently reflecting views of the Obama administration, trust peaks at 62 percent of Democrats, as many liberals and 69 percent of liberal Democrats. Just a quarter of Republicans and conservatives, and 18 percent of conservative Republicans, feel the same.

• Support for legal status for undocumented immigrants, 51 percent overall, ranges from 77 percent among liberal Democrats to 32 percent among conservative Republicans. Views on this issue also show sharp differences among other groups – for example, nonwhites vs. whites, 70 vs. 43 percent; and adults younger than 40 vs. their elders, 61 vs. 47 percent.

• Fewer than half of all adults, 45 percent, say political leaders should rely somewhat or a great deal on their religious beliefs when making policy decisions. But again the range is wide: Six in 10 conservatives, as many Republicans and 65 percent of conservative Republicans hold this view. That falls sharply to 39 percent of Democrats and independents alike, four in 10 moderates and 32 percent of liberals.

Partisan and ideological differences of 20, 30, 40 and even 50 points raise challenging questions of how political accommodation can occur in this country – a consideration that may gain urgency in the aftermath of the 16-day partial government shutdown prompted by a political dispute over the new federal health care law. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll this week, 75 percent of liberal Democrats supported that law; 76 percent of conservative Republicans opposed it.
One of these two sides is going to win, and one of them is going to lose. As it happens, it's a pretty good bet that it won't be the conservative side as the electorate becomes browner and more Millennial:

RACE AND PARTISANSHIP – There are racial and ethnic differences in many of the attitudes measured in this survey, partly reflecting partisan predispositions. In ABC News/Washington Post poll data, 24 percent of whites call themselves Democrats and 30 percent are Republicans, while among nonwhites the gap is far wider – 43 percent identify themselves as Democrats, vs. just 10 percent as Republicans.

Including people who describe themselves as independents but say they lean toward one of the two parties, the gap widens even further. Among whites, 42 percent are Democrats or lean that way; 48 percent are Republicans or Republican leaners. That compares to a 70-21 percent leaned Democrat vs. leaned Republican division among nonwhites.

Nonwhites, separately, are 11 points more apt than whites to describe themselves as liberals.

MILLENNIALS – Millennials, another group on which Fusion will focus coverage, customarily are described as Americans born from 1982 to 2004; for adults, that’s age 18 to 31. They’re not much different from other age groups on most of the attitudes measured in this survey, with two exceptions. As noted, along with under-40s more broadly, they’re more apt to favor legal status for undocumented immigrants. And they’re 12 points less apt than their elders to say politicians should base policy positions on their religious beliefs, a result that fits with customarily lower levels of religiosity among young adults.

There’s another difference among millennials vs. older adults, reflecting another longstanding attribute of young Americans: Their comparative lack of engagement in politics. Among adults age 18 to 31, just 54 percent report that they’re registered to vote. That soars to 87 percent among those 32 and older. Indeed it increases steadily with age, peaking at 94 percent of seniors.
The sooner Democrats embrace progressive values and engage younger citizens and communities of color, the sooner we can settle this argument once and for all. It won't mean the end of the Republican Party--things will always balance themselves in a two-party system--but it will mean a major political realignment assuming there is no major crisis or coup in the intervening time.


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