“If you go back to the days of the Civil War, one can find cases in American political history where there was far more rancor and violence. But in the modern era, there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ --partisan animus is at an all-time high--”.
(Stanford University political scientist)
Appeals for unity, however fervent, after a shooting of Republican politicians, are working against a historical headwind. Democratic and Republican voters don’t just disagree about the right way to reform health care or the true intentions of President Trump. Many despise each other, and to a degree that political scientists and pollsters say has gotten significantly worse over the last 50 years. “If you go back to the days of the Civil War, one can find cases in American political history where there was far more rancor and violence,” said Shanto Iyengar, a Stanford political scientist. “But in the modern era, there are no ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ --partisan animus is at an all-time high”--. Mr. Iyengar doesn’t mean that the typical Democratic or Republican voter has adopted more extreme ideological views (although it is the case that elected officials in Congress have moved further apart). Rather, Democrats and Republicans truly think worse of each other, a trend that isn’t really about policy preferences. Members of the two parties are more likely today to describe each other unfavorably, as selfish, as threats to the nation, even as unsuitable marriage material. Last year, for the first time since 1992, the Pew Research Center reported a majority of Democrats and Republicans said they held “very unfavorable” views of the opposing party. It follows a sweeping 2014 Pew study that found that “partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive” than at any point in the last two decades. That negativity appears to have fed a growing perception that the opposing party isn’t just misguided, but dangerous. In 2016, Pew reported that 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats felt that the other party’s policies posed a threat to the nation.