The partisan divide on fundamental political values – including attitudes about race, immigration, and the social safety net – reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency, but that gap has grown even wider in Donald Trump’s first year as president, according to a study released Thursday.
The 107-page Pew Research Center study, based on a survey of more than 5,000 Americans conducted over the summer, found that the current magnitude of differences between Republicans and Democrats dwarfs any other societal division such as gender, race, religion or education.
There is an immense gap between the attitudes of Democrats and Republicans when it comes to racial discrimination. While 64 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaners say that racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days, only 14 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaners said the same.
The vast majority of Republicans — 75 percent — said that blacks who can’t get ahead are mostly responsible for their condition. Twenty-eight percent of Democrats said the same.
The share of Americans who say racial discrimination is the main factor keeping blacks from getting ahead is up 9 points since last year, and is the highest it has been in Pew surveys dating back to 1994. This shift is almost entirely the result of changing views of Democrats, according to the report.
There is also a stark difference between the perception of the existence of discrimination along party lines. While 63 percent of Republicans say the “bigger problem in the country is people seeing discrimination where there actually is none,” Democrats said the opposite. Seventy-six percent of Democrats said that the “bigger problem in the country is people not seeing discrimination where it really does exist.”
The once modest partisan difference in views of immigrants has also ballooned in recent years, according to the Pew report.
Positive views of immigrants have increased overall, and two-thirds of Americans say that immigrants strengthen the country because of their hard work and talents.
This reflects a sharp shift in attitudes among Democrats, according to the report. While only 48 percent of Democrats in 2010 had a positive view of immigrants, 84 percent of them today say immigrants do more to strengthen, rather than burden, the country.
Republican attitudes toward immigrants are slightly less positive today than they were in the early 2000s, according to the report.
While there has been a consistent partisan gap since 1994 on attitudes regarding whether the government should give aid to the poor, Pew researchers found that divisions on this issue have never been as large as they are today.
Over the past six years, the share of Democrats who say the government should do more to help the needy has risen 17 percentage points (from 54 percent to 71 percent), while Republicans’ views have barely changed (only 24 percent of Republicans think the government should do more to help the poor, compared to 25 percent six years ago).
Pew researchers also asked Americans about their views on diplomacy, military strength, and the best way to ensure peace. Today, 83 percent of Democrats see good diplomacy as the best way to ensure peace, while only 33 percent of Republicans value diplomacy (down from 44 percent in 2014).
The study also shed light on Americans’ shifting attitudes about homosexuality, gender, religion, affirmative action and the environment.
For the first time, a majority of Republicans (54 percent) say homosexuality should be accepted rather than discouraged, compared to 38 percent in 1994.
The share of Americans overall who say homosexuality should be accepted by society is up 7 percentage points in the last year to 70 percent.
There is still a wide partisan gap over whether women continue to face greater challenges than men. Most Republicans (63 percent) say the obstacles that once made it harder for women to get ahead are now largely gone, with 70 percent of Republican men saying that women no longer face the same challenges.
Seventy-three percent of Democrats said significant obstacles still make it harder for women to get ahead.
About seven-in-ten black Americans think significant obstacles remain that make it harder for women to get ahead than men, compared with 53 percent of whites and 52 percent of Hispanics who said the same.
More Americans today across the political spectrum have positive views of affirmative action programs in college admissions, although substantial partisan differences still remain.
A little more than half of Republicans say affirmative action programs are a good thing, while 84 percent of Democrats support such initiatives.
The study also examined Americans’ views on religion, terrorism, corporate profits, tax policy and global warming, among other issues.
Read The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider by Pew