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Today, Pew came out with a fascinating, in-depth study of political polarization in the US.

The basic ideological ratings in the study come from a set of 10 questions.

I want to highlight a few of the interesting graphs here.

Let’s start by looking at the partisan divides on two statements “Government regulation of business usually does more harm than good” and “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient.”

In both cases, Democrats have trended downwards (overall) over the past twenty years. However, the Republican response depends entirely on which party is in power. You can see the trough in 2004 when Bush was in office. Government isn’t so “wasteful and inefficient” and government regulation isn’t so “harmful” when a Republican is in office, you see.

The partisan divide on the statement “Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care” is also illuminating.

From 1994 to 2004, there was no real divide between the parties. However, in the past ten years, a 4 point gap turned into a 19 point one, with most of the change coming from Democrats becoming more favorable to immigrants.

The evolution of the Republican response to the statement “Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy” is striking. The gap between the parties went from 10% in 1994 to 13% in 2004, not a large change. However, in the past decade, Republican opposition to environmental protection rose steeply, with 59% now agreeing with this statement (a 34 point gap with Democrats).  

Although Democrats and Republicans increasingly disagree on a  number of issues, they agree that Social Security should not be cut.

Across the ideological divide, people would prefer to protect or expand Social Security, rather than cut or eliminate it.

If you have time, you should pore through the full survey; there are many other interesting tidbits in it.

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