A recent paper that was posted online for the first time last week concludes that we just can’t stand each other these days. “Using data from a variety of sources,” say the authors, “we demonstrate that both Republicans and Democrats increasingly dislike, even loathe, their opponents.” And apparently this has little to do with policy positions. It’s more about the relentless tsunami of negative attack ads and partisan media that have consumed American politics over the past couple of decades.
Sadly, the full paper is gated. However, Claude Fischer offers up a few tidbits:
From the late 1970s through the late 2000s, Americans rated their own political party pretty consistently, at about an average of 70 on the scale. However, Americans rated the other party increasingly coolly, from about a 47 average four decades ago down to about a 35 average these days. This trend portrays a growing animosity toward the other side. Notably, the gulf in party temperatures is now wider than that between whites and blacks and that between Catholics and Protestants.
A pair of surveys asked Americans a more concrete question: in 1960, whether they would be “displeased” if their child married someone outside their political party, and, in 2010, would be “upset” if their child married someone of the other party. In 1960, about 5 percent of Americans expressed a negative reaction to party intermarriage; in 2010, about 40 percent did (Republicans about 50 percent, Democrats about 30 percent).
Wow. I’m a pretty partisan hack, but I really can’t imagine not wanting my daughter to marry a Republican. But who knows? If I actually had a daughter, maybe I’d feel differently.
Still, it’s pretty disturbing. I’d call this the Fox Newsification of America, or perhaps the Limbaugh-ization of America, and increasingly liberals are playing the same game. MSNBC may not be quite the partisan hatefest that Fox is, but it’s certainly moving in that direction. If America were a parliamentary democracy, this might be more tolerable, but in our presidential system it basically just leads to uncompromising gridlock. Not a good sign for the future.