Have you gotten into an argument about politics yet this season? If so, you’re not alone. And if it seems like these disputes are becoming more toxic and mean, they are, according to a fascinating, though not surprising, essay in the New York Times this week.
The Big Orange One was not named in the article, and that may be due to the conclusion that Trump is just a vessel for simmering rage that has been boiling in the American electorate for some time.
While the percentage of Americans who identify as Democrat or Republican has gone down in recent decades, those with a strong party affinity are now farther apart from the other side than ever. And according to this essay, it’s largely based on racial attitudes:
The increasing alignment between party and racial attitudes goes back to the early 1990s. The Pew Values Survey asks people whether they agree that “we should make every effort to improve the position of minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment.”
Over time, Americans’ party identification has become more closely aligned with answers to this question and others like it. Pew reports that, “since 1987, the gap on this question between the two parties has doubled — from 18 points to 40 points.” Democrats are now much more supportive (52 percent) of efforts to improve racial equality than they were a few decades ago, while the views of Republicans have been largely unchanged (12 percent agree).
And with race and ethnicity front and center in the 2016 race, from Black Lives Matter protesters to Trump calling Mexicans rapists and murderers (“though some I’m sure are nice people”), the partisan split is even more pronounced.