Poll: Partisanship Still Top Factor in US Political Values

(CN) – Partisanship remains the defining factor for division in the American public’s political values, outranking age, race, gender, religion and education, the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday.

In a survey of 9,895 adults between Sept. 3 and 15, researchers asked respondents about a series of political issues, and partisanship created the widest gap in the range from support to opposition.

On average, the difference in answers on various political questions between Democrats and Republicans was 39% – more than double the 17% gap among different races, which came in as the second most significant factor in political values.

Partisan respondents were most divided on issues such as gun policy, racial attitudes and climate change, with 57%, 55% and 48% disparities, respectively.

Though partisans were distinctly divided on the majority of the issues, respondents found common ground on less divisive issues. Sixty-one percent of Democrats and 68% of Republicans said drug addiction is a very big problem; 52% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans agreed on the importance of addressing the federal deficit; and 36% of Democrats and 41% of Republicans said defeating terrorism is a top priority.

But the survey data also showed very different priorities between partisans on other issues. Democrats seemed to prioritize climate change, income inequality, combating racism and health care costs, whereas Republicans prioritized combating drug addiction and illegal immigration.

On the role of government, respondents from each party represented a virtual mirror image in their views. Seventy-eight percent of Democrats said that government “should do more to solve problems,” whereas 71% of Republicans said that government “is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.” While those views represent fundamental differences between the parties on the government’s role in society, it was nonetheless one of the starkest contrasts in the survey.

Similarly, respondents were divided along party lines on issues of business regulation and government waste. Sixty-eight percent of Republicans said that government “is almost always wasteful and inefficient,” whereas 51% of Democrats said that government “often does a better job than people give it credit for,” though 56% of overall respondents characterized the federal government as wasteful.

Sixty-one percent of Republicans said that government does more harm than good, whereas 75% of Democrats said that government is necessary to protect public interests. The latter view was supported by 58% of overall respondents.

However, the data also indicated that partisans may see an inversion on government efficiency. During the Trump administration, a growing number of Republicans – albeit still a minority – said that government does a better job than people think. Inversely, the number of Democrats who said that government is wasteful has risen during that same period. Both trends are likely a reflection of a Republican presidency rather than an ideological change. Such inversion is still dwarfed by traditional ideological leanings on each side.

On the issue of tradition versus change, another divisive pillar of American politics, 64% of Democrats said that U.S. success came from its ability to change, whereas 63% of Republicans linked success to reliance on long-standing principles. Overall, 52% of respondents favored change over tradition.

Republicans seemed slightly more hopeful than Democrats regarding the country’s ability to solve its problems, at 62%. Democrats were split on the question, with 50% who said that the U.S. can’t solve many of its important problems and 49% who agreed with the majority of Republicans.

Overall, the survey showed that Democrats affirmed the importance of the government’s role in solving problems – including on more specific questions about the social safety net, gun control and combating racism – whereas Republicans lamented government intrusion on individualism and economic activities.

In fact, the only change in values shown by either party is likely a reflection of the current administration’s political party, as the last inversion on government effectiveness was seen during the George W. Bush administration.

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