29 January 2021   Leave a comment

Most of us would agree that there are sharp political divisions in the US, divisions that were made sharper and more manifest during the Trump Administration. The Pew Research Center has conducted a very large number of polls to measure how deep these fissures actually are and the results are sobering. The report summarizes some of the findings:

“Trump’s status as a political outsider, his outspoken nature and his willingness to upend past customs and expectations of presidential behavior made him a constant focus of public attention, as well as a source of deep partisan divisions.

“Even before he took office, Trump divided Republicans and Democrats more than any incoming chief executive in the prior three decades.1 The gap only grew more pronounced after he became president. An average of 86% of Republicans approved of Trump’s handling of the job over the course of his tenure, compared with an average of just 6% of Democrats – the widest partisan gap in approval for any president in the modern era of polling.2 Trump’s overall approval rating never exceeded 50% and fell to a low of just 29% in his final weeks in office, shortly after a mob of his supporters attacked the Capitol.”

One of the more striking findings of the polls was the extent to which words were interpreted in vastly different ways by Democrats and Republicans. The graph below shows the disparities in how words uttered by former President Trump were interpreted.

This disparity spilled over into the very question of what constituted a fact in political discourse. The report notes that

“One of the few things that Republicans and Democrats could agree on during Trump’s tenure is that they didn’t share the same set of facts. In a 2019 survey, around three-quarters of Americans (73%) said most Republican and Democratic voters disagreed not just over political plans and policies, but over “basic facts.”

Most Americans said in 2019 that Republican and Democratic voters can't agree on 'basic facts.'

“Much of the disconnect between the parties involved the news media, which Trump routinely disparaged as ‘fake news’ and the ‘enemy of the people.’ Republicans, in particular, expressed widespread and growing distrust of the press. In a 2019 survey, Republicans voiced more distrust than trust in 2o of the 30 specific news outlets they were asked about, even as Democrats expressed more trust than distrust in 22 of those same outlets. Republicans overwhelmingly turned to and trusted one outlet included in the study – Fox News – even as Democrats used and expressed trust in a wider range of sources. The study concluded that the two sides placed their trust in ‘two nearly inverse media environments.'” 

The report finally notes that most Americans would prefer that Trump exit the political stage, but that there is a divide on this question between moderate and conservative Republicans: “Around two-thirds of Americans (68%) said in January 2021 that they would not like to see Trump continue to be a major political figure in the years to come, but Republicans were divided by ideology. More than half of self-described moderate and liberal Republicans (56%) said they preferred for him to exit the political stage, while 68% of conservatives said they wanted him to remain a national political figure for many years to come.”

Posted January 29, 2021 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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