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IU public attitudes survey shows Americans becoming more partisan


Edward Carmines is a professor of political science at IU. “To make any progress requires that the parties compromise and aim to get something done rather than sticking to their talking points, which is often the case,” he said. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

An annual survey by the IU Center on Representative Government found Americans are becoming increasingly politically polarized.  

The survey asked over 1,000 people nationwide questions about their attitudes toward topics such as congressional representatives compromising, Congress being nonresponsive and the importance of a free and independent press. 

While Democrats and Republicans differed on many topics within the survey, such as the importance of checks and balances and the amount of power Congress should hold, they agreed on the responsiveness of Congress. 

“74 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans said Congress is ‘not at all’ or ‘not very’ responsive to the concerns of people like them,” according to the survey. 

Around half of those surveyed said they believed their representatives should compromise with their opponents instead of standing their ground for their beliefs. 

“To make any progress requires that the parties compromise and aim to get something done rather than sticking to their talking points, which is often the case,” said Edward Carmines, the overseer of the annual survey and a distinguished professor of political science at IU.

This sounds like a solution for congressional gridlock, but political science professor Bernard L. Fraga said it may not be so simple. 

“Americans want politicians to reach across the aisle but only if they get their preferred policy goals,” Fraga said. “They want bipartisanship but only if they get their party to do what they want.”

He said given the hyperpartisanship of the current political environment, it’s not surprising members of Congress are less willing to work with political parties other than their own.

Some moderates tend not to contact their representatives, Carmines said. When only people from the far sides of the political spectrum contact their representatives, Carmines said politicians believe they are acting on their constituents’ wishes by remaining extremely partisan.

Carmines said the amount of partisan polarization recorded in the survey has consistently grown over the past decade, especially in people who are attentive to national politics. But he said political polarization among Americans has not reached the same level as Congress.

According to the Atlantic, only 4% of congressional candidates identified as ideologically moderate in 2018. 

While getting more moderates involved in politics might seem like the solution, Fraga said it may not be. Fraga said many large campaign donors hold moderate values, yet the influence they have has not made politics less partisan. 

“More and more Americans are willing to say that they don’t want their party to compromise in any way shape or form,” Fraga said. 

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