A new study of 10,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that political polarization is more extreme than it’s been anytime in the last 20 years. The median (or middle) Democrat and Republican are farther away from each other politically than in 2004 or 1994. “Today,” reports Pew, “92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat, and 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican.”
Animosity has grown as well. Over a quarter of Democrats and a third of Republicans see the other side as a “threat to the nation’s well being.” In total, 38% of Democrats and 43% of Republicans judge the other side to be “very unfavorable.”
Even more dramatically, it is the people at the extremes who are most likely to vote in elections and contribute to candidates. Today’s America is highly polarized, then, but the voting booth is even more so.
Pew concludes by noting that, even given this polarization, the majority of Americans are in the middle and are open to compromise between parties. These individuals, however, are less politically active, whether out of disinterest or distaste for the rancor, leaving politics to the most extreme among us.
Cross-posted at Pacific Standard.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.