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As partisan divide grows, younger Americans show interest in third parties 

A new survey finds nearly half of voters under the age of 49 said they wish there were more political parties to choose from.

(CN) — Political polarization in the United States has increased significantly since 2016, with both Republicans and Democrats viewing members of the opposing party as more closed-minded, dishonest, immoral, unintelligent and lazy compared to just six years ago.

A new survey published Tuesday by Pew Research Center indicates that more Americans than ever before identify as either Republican or Democrat because they feel the policies of the opposing party are harmful to the country.  

But at the same time, the survey of 6,174 U.S. adults, conducted between June 27 and July 4, also revealed that as many as 71% of respondents were at least partially frustrated by the absence of other major political parties involved in national politics. That sentiment is especially prevalent among younger voters who identify as independents, even if they tend to lean toward one of the major political parties. Nearly half (47%) of all respondents under 49 said they wish there more parties to choose from.

Further, more Americans than ever before harbor unfavorable opinions of both major political parties, a metric which rose from a rate of 6% in 1994 to 27% today.   

Those who identified as independents cited an unwillingness to put a political label on their views. Still, many of those lean toward one of the major parties, even if they express frustration with party leadership. About 40% of independents who lean toward the Democratic Party expressed frustration with leadership, compared to 39% of independents who lean Republican. 

Notably, the survey found that more than half of Republicans appreciate those among their party who propagate the lie that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Only 17% of Republicans indicated they did not appreciate such misinformation.  

Still, Pew determined the number of people who harbor deeply negative views of the opposing party has also grown. In 1994, just 21% of Republicans had “very unfavorable” views of the Democratic Party. Today, that number has grown to 62%. On the other side of the aisle, 17% of Democrats had unfavorable views of the Republican Party in 1994, but that number has increased to 54% today.  

Yet more than half of respondents said a person’s political affiliation is not a reflection of their character. Of those polled, 54% said political affiliation does not speak to whether someone is a good or bad person, while on the contrary, 15% said it speaks volumes.  

All told, 27% of respondents have unfavorable views of both parties, which is up from 6% in 1994. Around 37% of those with unfavorable views of both parties were between the ages of 18 to 29, while 34% were between the ages of 30 to 49. 

The survey also examined the growing divide in presidential approval ratings, determining the partisan gaps on recent presidents have grown much wider than presidents from the second half of the 20th century.  Average approval ratings of presidents by members of the opposing party fell from a high of 49% for both Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy to a low of 6% for Donald Trump and 7% for Joe Biden. 

“More than six decades ago, President Eisenhower enjoyed an average 88% approval rating from Republicans and a 49% approval rating from Democrats, a 39 percentage point partisan gap,” the study reported. “And during [Lyndon] Johnson’s presidency, 70% of Democrats, on average, approved of his handling of the job, compared with 40% of Republicans – a partisan gap of 30 points."

It added, "In the years since, the partisan divide in presidential ratings has grown relatively steadily, largely as average out-party ratings of the president’s job performance have declined. Across his eight years in office, an average of 23% of Democrats approved of George W. Bush’s performance. That dropped to an average of 14% of Republicans approving of Obama’s performance over his eight years, resulting in average partisan approval gaps of 58 points for Bush and 67 points for Obama." 

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