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Politics & Government

Americans think political divisiveness is bad for the country but expect it to get worse.

harrisburg_protest_capitol_coronavirus.jpg
Matt Rourke
/
AP
Protesters demonstrate at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, April 20, 2020.

Nearly three quarters of Americans think political hostility is bad for the country, according to a new survey from Public Agenda/USA TODAY Hidden Common Ground.

But few people expect it to get better over the next 10 years.

Two-thirds of Democrats, Republicans and Independents think more trustworthy, accurate news sources would help bring people together.

Director of Research David Schleifer said most people think the news should focus as much on solutions as on problems.

“People think that the news media actually stands to benefit from divisiveness because it’s something to report on,” he said. “Those conflict narratives make for good stories.”

When asked about what else might help cool temperatures around the country, respondents pointed to reducing the influence of money in politics and creating more opportunities for people to discuss different ideas.

In addition, the poll found that Americans have more negative opinions of politicians than they do of voters of the opposing party.

About one-third of respondents said they have very unfavorable feelings toward either Republican or Democratic voters.

But more people, about 2 in 5, said they feel just moderately or only a little adversarial toward opposition voters.

But, over half of Democrats and Republicans have very unfavorable views of political figures in the opposing party.

Schleifer said the images of intense partisan division in the news don’t tell the whole story.

“Those people who have the least unfavorable feelings, they are the most likely to say that they have friends with a mix of different political viewpoints, most likely to think they can learn something by talking to someone with political views that are different from theirs,” he said.

Over 70 percent of respondents said they strongly or somewhat agree that something can be learned by talking to people whose political views are opposed to their own.

And while most people avoid talking about politics with those who have opposing views, about 45 percent say they have had a constructive conversation about politics in the last 12 months.

“We hear a lot about Democrats and Republicans being at each other’s throats and hating each other,” Schleifer said. “But one of the things that we were interested in was, trying to put some nuance to that and to try to understand just how much variation there is in people’s feelings towards people on the other side of the political spectrum.”

The survey of 2,345 adults was conducted in the last week of September.

The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points for all respondents. The credibility interval is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points for Democrats, plus or minus 4.6 percentage points for Republicans, plus or minus 4.8 percentage points for Independents, and plus or minus 5.3 percentage points for politically unaffiliated people.

Read more from our partners, WITF.