Obama and NYT severely criticized Bush for polorization of the USA.  Obama promised to heal.



Partisan differences now divide Americans more sharply than distinctions of race, religion, education or sex as a decade-long wave has pushed Democrats and Republicans to opposite corners on a wide range of formerly less partisan issues.

On matters as disparate as environmental protection, support for the social safety net and immigration, former areas of bipartisan agreement have dissolved as Democrats have moved left and Republicans have shifted to the right, according to a major new study by the Pew Research Center, which has tracked American values over the last 25 years.

That polarization has important practical consequences -- forecasting continued gridlock in national politics.

One of the hottest debates among people who study American politics centers on whether the trench warfare so obvious in Congress mostly involves conflicts among elected officials and political interest groups or reflects a deeper divide among voters. Are politicians ignoring constituents’ desires for bipartisan solutions or representing a divided electorate all too well?

President Obama first became nationally famous in 2004 in part for a memorable statement of one side of that argument: “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America,” he said in a speech to the Democratic convention that year, “there is the United States of America.”

That sunny picture of national consensus has fared poorly during Obama’s presidency. Now the Pew study joins a growing body of data and analysis which rebuts the belief that voters are far more unified than their elected representatives. The study was based on a survey in April of more than 3,000 adult Americans and has a margin of error of +/-2.1 percentage points.

Americans “are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years,” the study’s authors say. The  average gap in views between Democratic and Republican partisans has nearly doubled, with most of the increase coming during the Obama and George W. Bush presidencies, Pew’s research found. Moreover, people’s consistency in hewing to one side or the other has increased.

RiCK Tuesday 19 June 2012 - 09:35 am | | Brophy Blog

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