America Speaks: Do they think politics is more partisan?

October 07, 2020, 4:00 PM UTC

More than two thirds of Americans think politics has gotten more partisan in their lifetime, according to a recent YouGov survey.  

But how does America see the partisan divide? And where do they trace this division back to? We asked YouGov Chat users to go deeper on the topic and explain - in their own words - the ways in which American politics become more partisan. You can share your views on partisanship in America here

“I can't put a finger on when things changed…”

Much blame for the increasing partisanship in America is laid at Trump and Obama’s doorsteps. 

  • “A specific moment? It has been a slow build until President Obama was elected and then it became apparent that the republicans didn't want to work for the betterment of the country, only for their party.”

  • “It worsened when President Trump was elected because Democrats are sore losers.”

But not everyone picked a side. Many Chat users argued that the increasing partisanship in American politics was a result of the words and actions of both parties. 

  • “Parties work against each other like it's a sport rather than for America.”

  • “I remember when candidates would tell the listeners where they stand on issues. Now it is mostly just bashing each other.”

  • “In the past, say in Reagan's day, appointees were chosen to appeal to as many legislators as possible. Nowadays, the more extremely partisan the candidate, the better, all is done for the base, compromise is a lost art.”

  • “The fact that parties are more interested in dunking on each other for next election's talking points than actually finding what they agree on and working backwards from there to negotiate on behalf of the American people as they are supposed to do makes us more partisan than ever. One thing that stands out is the damaging annual spectacle of "government shutdowns" that brings everything to a halt sometimes for very long stretches of time, usually just to make a political point.” 

Some Chat users put forward the idea that the American news and media industry was responsible for the deepening gulf between the two sides of the aisle...

  • “I think it's 100% the fault of media, and I'm an independent voter.”

  • “Way too partisan, gags me constantly. Believe caused by our supposed "Leaders", media, esp TV news & talk radio.”

  • “The media is a huge problem. They do not report accurately, fairly, or in an unbiased way.” 

  • “It [American politics] has become an echo chamber. It doesn't help that the media has clearly taken sides and ignored its job. We can no longer as a nation debate without attack.” 

...while others attributed it to social media. 

  • “The twitter mob /social media contributes to making the USA more partisan.”

  • “While we’re not to Civil War level issues (yet), we’ve gotten pretty bad in the last several years. Everything has become about race, gender, and politics thanks to it being able to be constantly in your face thanks to 24 hr news cycles and social media.”

  • “The things people in my life post on social media paint “the other side” as evil. And they use two different vocabularies so that they can barely understand each other.” 

“It feels like everyone has to pick a side now” 

While many Chat users point to 2016 as the point when everything became more partisan, others had a different marker. 

  • “I believe it started with Clinton. From then you can see a near 50/50 divide in the parties during elections and polls. It seems to reflect the ethics and morals of society and how that same breakdown plays out in choosing their candidate.”

  • “Much of this started to get worse when John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. Sarah was a tea party candidate who gave an even larger platform to their movement and conspiracy theories started to take hold.”

  • “When Reagan was elected, the gap between rich and poor was widened. This is when politics changed.”

So is there a corner of American life that remains free of partisan squabbles?  

The overwhelming answer from Chat users was no. 

  • “Things that used to be in the non-partisan sphere of life are now being filtered through the lens of partisanship.” 

  • “Almost every source of entertainment has at least a sprinkling of some kind of political stance.” 

  • “It does not seem to be so anymore. I can't think of a single thing that has been bipartisan in the last decade. Neither party wants to concede that the other might have a good idea.”

Of those who do see some measure of bi-partisanship in American politics, many see evidence of it at a local level.

  • “I think local politics are still the most bipartisan because things actually need to get done to solve specific problems and not just present rhetoric.”

  • “Perhaps some compromise at the local government level?”

  • “The more local the less partisan. At least from where I am.” 

Although not everyone is convinced that this spirit of cooperation and compromise would hold. 

  • “Because of politics nationwide I think people are turning more partisan locally too.”

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Everyday, members of YouGov Chat are asked to share their opinion on a topic in the news. We allow anyone to take part in these chats, and do not display or weight results in real-time. Instead, to make the experience informative but still interactive, the chat displays weighted data from YouGov Direct to show them how the rest of the country voted. This enables us to pose the question to all, while retaining data accuracy and validity when communicating results.  

YouGov chat seeks to add to the ‘what?’ (the quantitative poll result) by finding the ‘why?” (qualitative open ends) in a member’s own words. Learn more about YouGov Chat here.    

Image: Getty