Yes, Americans Are Politically 'Divided'—We're Not One-Policy-Fits-All Borg

BorgEl CarlosAmericans continue to see the country as sharply divided over political issues—but fewer of us see that as a bad thing, while growing numbers see a real upside in that division, according to USA Today/Bipartisan Policy Center polling:

The sharp political divide that Americans say they hate may be becoming the new normal.

A USA TODAY/Bipartisan Policy Center poll taken this month, the fourth in a year-long series, shows no change in the overwhelming consensus that U.S. politics have become more divided in recent years.

Well, of course there's political division in a nation of over 300 million people. We're not the damned Borg. If we didn't have strong disagreements over policies that reach deeply into our lives, that would be really weird. Recent years have brought us Obamacare, the surveillance state, and metastasizing federal spending, to barely scratch the surface. The fact that we so strongly perceive political polarization around us may have less to do with increasing policy disagreements than with the fact that so many one-size-fits-all solutions are jammed down our collective throats even though we're not, you know, a collective.

The most notable shift here is the move toward accepting and even celebrating America's political divisions. In just one year, the percentage of the population calling the divisions "a good thing" rose from 20 percent to 40 percent. The prepackaged rationale from the pollsters for the political divide being good is that it "gives voters a real choice." But, tellingly, USA Today quotes a man saying, "It helps stop bad policies."

In fact, blocking bad laws should be the priority for members of Congress, according to the poll—54 percent of Republicans and 51 percent of Democrats agree.

The Americans growing increasingly comfortable with a country that disagrees with itself are, after all, the same people who say that government is burdensome, who have little regard for federal employees, and who see big government as the greatest threat. Having been on the receiving end of the implementation of government policy and very much not liking it, Americans are painfully aware that many of their fellow countrymen want the government to do things that they themselves oppose.

What policies Americans define as "bad" certainly vary from individual to individual—differing definitions of good and bad policy are at the heart of that perceived political divide.

But Americans will always disagree with one another. The fact that we're growing content in that disagreement and see slowing and stopping the implementation of policy as a key goal for lawmakers is all the more reason to avoid top-down, centralized decisions that force one part of the country's population to suffer the detested policy preferences of another faction.

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  • Rich||

    no change in the overwhelming consensus that U.S. politics have become more divided

    *** keeps eye on Venice and Scotland ***

  • ||

    Wow, if only there was a document that suggested a way to divide political authority among different political entities in such a way as people could get government more in keeping with their preferences..

  • ||

    "in such a way asthat people"

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    The Federal Election Campaign Act?

  • SusanM||

    Madness, I tells ya! I bet you think that "document" of your would also put limits on government, right?

  • Rich||

  • JW||

    Is that the new 50 Shades?

  • ||

    The polling question those graphs illustrate really begs the question, doesn't it?

  • Pro Libertate||

    What else is new? Political polls quite frequently go to some lengths to introduce biases.

  • JW||

    That's just like you, to say something like that.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Poll: How many people think the fascist Pro Libertate is a fascist?

  • ||

    Poll: Is Nicole (the worst) really the worst?

  • paranoid android||

    It is interesting to reflect on the fact that people are becoming more sharply divided on politics, at a personal level, at a time when the two major parties are more indistinguishably homogeneous than they've ever been.

  • SusanM||

    The homogenization is due to the two party system itself. Especially at the national level the parties have to pick not the purest or the loudest but the least-offensive in order to grab as many of the "could be worse" voters as they can.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    You sound extremist

  • General Butt Naked||

    Notice what sort of things cause the most acrimony between the two major sides. It's shit that is not gonna change, can't be changed, or affects a very small portion of the population. The behemoth has been built and they're just arguing over piddling details of minor details how it's yielded.

    Think about it, what are the two biggest hot-button issues of the day?

    Abortion and gay marriage. You're looking at issues that in reality affect 1, maybe, 2 percent of the population, and the chances of abortion being banned are effectively ZERO. Big things, like ss and defense have been decided a long time ago and aren't ever gonna change, until they collapse, that is.

  • Robert||

    Actually polls show those to be low priority concerns now. What you are seeing is not actually a difference in the parties themselves, but what their candidates feel most comfortable to run on. The grass roots are not that way.

  • Robert||

    Unless there's been a very large & recent change, that's not true. In fact, polls in recent yrs. show Democrats to be unusually divergent from Republicans compared to the avg. over history. The gap was narrowing for a while early in this century, but then spread wider than before. When the parties were last very close together was ca. 1990 IIRC.

  • ||

    Not sure about that, but it does assume statism.

  • JW||

    I see a scorching case of buyers remorse, if nothing else.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I just finished The American Sphinx.

    Oddly enough, the issues we're divided on are exactly the same issues that divided us 220 years ago...

    The role of government.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Isn't that the book about the last democrat to believe in small government?

  • General Butt Naked||

    There was a book by Gary Hart a few years ago that advocated a Jeffersonian ward system where most political decisions would happen at a local level.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Found it.

    Restoration of the Republic

    Can't believe they're selling it for eighty clams. I should put mine up for sale.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    $16.50 on teh Kindle

  • General Butt Naked||

    Hey, there might be some stripper out there that wants the hard copy.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    I didn't much care for it. I think the history lesson was good, but then Ellis drew all the wrong conclusions as to the whys.

  • Rich||

    "it makes it harder to get things done"

    I find that proggies rarely have a meaningful response to: "What are these 'things' to which you refer?"

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    oh you know like passing "common sense" health care reform! and "common sense" gun laws! And "overhauling" our education system! And "fixing" our "broken" immigration system!

  • Rich||

    And, of course, to do them in the "fairest" way possible!

  • Neoliberal Kochtopus||

    and isn't it time we buckled down and fixed the criminal justice system?

    if you guys would just quit with your principles and your desires and your sense of justice we could "fix" all that stuff and "get America working again". Yes, the entire point of different parties is to represent different competing values about government, but if everyone would just see things my way we could "fix" all this stuff like we did back in the day...not like now what with Washington at a gridlock (Rachel Maddow told me gridlock is bad...when Republicans do it).

  • Cyto||

    No, it is "gridlock" when the Republicans do it.

    It is "Stopping the evil extremist tea-baggers" when the Democrats do it.

    Democrats cannot be guilty of gridlock, by definition. Political debate 101. Welfare reform is evil racism.... until my team does it. Then it is a major accomplishment that saved the world. Expanding the welfare state is evil.... until my team passes a prescription drug benefit. Then it is a great day for the republic. We have always been at war with Eurasia, right?

  • JW||

    "it makes it harder to get things done"

    I've heard this exact sentiment expressed to me by quite smart leftists, who should know better. They seem to take a pause when I point out to them that what they really want is a dictatorship or a king, not a democracy.

    Sadly, punishing their enemies always manages to float to the top of their chum bucket.

  • Rich||

    punishing their enemies always manages to float to the top

    "Well, at least we'd be getting *something* done!"

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Response: "Reefer? All for it"

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    Why can't we all just agree on the best kind of pizza?

  • JW||

    Regretting releasing your deep-dish monster on the villagers?

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    No, I sleep well at night. It was for their own good to have something beside thin crust.

  • JW||

    "Wait. Where are you going? I was going to make calzones!"

  • AlmightyJB||

    I'm not sure what's to disagree on. If it doesn't have a thin crust it's not actually pizza.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Because there are demented, perverted, unpatriotic, deep-dish eating pedophiles out there that need to be incarcerated (or eradicated) in the name of the common good.

  • ||

    I got a Costco pizza last night and it was DELICIOUS. Fuck you.

  • Brandon||

    I didn't really have a dog in this race until I got a pizza from Garlic Knot. Thin crust, and it was better than any deep dish I've ever had.

  • sarcasmic||

    Bite bite!
    Seep seep!
    Let's do the combo mambo!

  • Zeb||

    It is certainly pretty obvious that a large country will always be politically divided in various ways. The thing that always surprises me is how even that division usually seems to be (in a mostly 2 party system anyway).

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    That's just our first past the post system. If we had a parlimentary system the House would be much more fractured.

  • ||

    Even with the "first past the post system" Canada and Britain still have to rely on minority governments with one of the lesser parties holding the balance of power.

    Hell, even with its preferential ballot or "Instant-runoff voting", Australian "conservatives" had had to rely on a coalition arrangement between the "Liberals" and the National Party to form governements since WWII.

    For anyone unfamiliar with Australian politics the Liberal Party is the party that represents urban business interests while the National Party (fka the Country Party) represents the interests of farmers and graziers (ranchers in American) and to some extent small rural towns (although to some extent both Liberal and Labor have significant reporesentation in those constituencies.

  • Tamfang||

    Most British-descended regimes have parliamentary systems with simple plurality elections. Frankie means proportional representation.

    (I hate the term "first past the post", because it implies that there is a post to pass.)

  • -Umbriel-||

    If psychology and sociology really merited being considered "sciences" they'd be studying the underlying mechanics of that trend. I suspect it doesn't really reflect a core ideological division so much as natural contrarian impulses and the dynamics of social groups.

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Two parties is simply evil incarnate.

    Right and wrong become irrelevant. If one party says it's black, the other will say it's white just to not agree with their competitor.

    It would be interesting to see what a third party would do to that dynamic. Would the third party side with the right (correct) position or would they make up an additional wrong position to distinguish itself from both?

  • JW||

    If one party says it's black, the other will say it's white

    That sounds...familiar.

    Say, you wouldn't happen to be chasing some kind of traitor?

  • Rich||

    "This isn't right. It's not even wrong." -- Wolfgang Pauli

  • sarcasmic||

    Sometimes I wonder if they trade positions on issues based upon polling, so as to keep the contest close enough that no third party can be viable.

  • Robert||

    How even the division seems to be is an artifact. On any issue, it's possible to find the 50-50 compromise point or at least the midpoint of opinion, and voila 50% on one side and 50% on th other. As opinion shifts, so does that balance point, but it always exists.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I would think relentless outrage would get boring after a while. I guess that's why new crops of college freshmen are needed each year.

  • JW||

    We're not the damned Borg.

    Well, maybe not all of us.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me. You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!
    Crowd: [in unison] Yes! We're all individuals!
    Brian: You're all different!
    Crowd: [in unison] Yes, we are all different!
    Man in crowd: I'm not.
    Crowd: Shhh!

  • JW||

    This is the part where we should all start whistling, isn't it?

  • ||

    RANK RANK RANK
    New York 1 678,450,560 3 19,651,127 34.52 1
    California 2 490,966,080 1 38,332,521 12.81 5
    Texas 3 251,648,800 2 26,448,193 9.51 9
    Florida 4 228,635,840 4 19,552,860 11.69 7
    Illinois 5 221,431,776 5 12,882,135 17.19 3
    New Jersey 6 127,342,512 11 8,899,339 14.31 4
    Georgia 7 121,898,152 9 9,992,167 12.20 6
    Ohio 8 120,148,064 7 11,570,808 10.38 8
    Maryland 9 106,702,784 19 5,928,814 18.00 2
    Pennsylvania 10 100,748,528 6 12,773,801 7.89 10

  • General Butt Naked||

    GO PA!!

    What are we cheering for again?

  • ||

    OK, that didn't work. It was supposed to show WOD spending among the ten biggest states.

    Basically what it shows is that NY spends twice as much on drug war enforcement per capita as nearly every other state except for MD (which it outspends by about 1.8).

    Copied and pasted from a spreadsheet extended from a post on H&R the other day.

  • ||

    My original spreadsheet shows the amount of money spent by the highest ranking states in the WOD compared with their actual populations and the per capita amount each state spends (2010).

    Part of my point is that even on "social issues" like the WOD blues states like CA, NY and IL outspend red states like Fl and TX.

  • Brandon||

    What do ya got there, numbers?

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Numbers and states!

  • ||

    My original explanation post was attacked by squirrels.

    The first and second numbers represent the states rank and its spending according to a post here at H&R a few days ago.

    The 2nd and 3rd numbers represent the population and GDP of those states.

    The 5th and 6th numbers represent the per capita spending and the rank of those states.

    This was originally cut and pasted from an excel spreadsheet I did on the subject that did not translate in the way I intended.

    Which was something to the effect that blue states spend more on the WOD in spite of the fact that in the polular mind as well as Republican "tough on crime" rhetoric blue states spend more on enforcing drug laws than red states do.

  • Tamfang||

    Why do other people take the trouble to be wrong, when it's at least as easy to be right like me?

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