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Partisan divisions among voters deepen under Trump, survey finds

David Lauter, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Partisan divisions in the U.S., already at a high point during President Barack Obama's years in office, have hardened further under President Donald Trump, with both Democrats and Republicans feeling more negatively toward members of the opposing party.

Asked by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center to rate their feelings toward the other party's members on a thermometer, about three-quarters of people who identify themselves as Republicans gave Democrats a cold rating. Among Democrats, feelings toward Republicans were just slightly less cold -- about 7 in 10 gave the other party's members a cold rating.

In both cases, the ratings were significantly chillier than last year.

The new numbers illustrate the negative feelings that have been driving American politics. The trend toward more and harsher partisanship began more than a generation ago, but accelerated through the George W. Bush and Obama presidencies and has continued into Trump's.

The Pew survey also found that partisanship corresponds with how Americans see certain occupations.

About three-quarters of Republicans expressed very warm feelings toward police officers, for example, while among Democrats just one-third did so. On the flip side, half of Democrats had very warm feelings toward college professors, while among Republicans only one-fifth felt that way.

Backers of the two parties have similarly negative views of the opposition, but Democrats and independents who lean Democratic are somewhat happier with their side than are Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, the Pew survey found. The numbers help explain a reality that can be seen daily on Capitol Hill -- the greater unity among Democrats than Republicans.

Nearly half of Democrats, 45 percent, say they feel "very warm" toward their party. Among Republicans, the share feeling "very warm" toward their party was slightly smaller, 39 percent.

Among independents who lean Republican, the share who say that the party label describes them well has dropped significantly over the past year. In 2016, half of Republican-leaning independents said that the party name described them "very" or "fairly" well. Now, just one-third say so.

The share of Democratic-leaning independents who say the party label describes them very or fairly well has remained steady at just over 40 percent.

Pew conducted its study among 4,971 members of an online panel whose members are randomly selected to accurately reflect the nation's demographics. The survey was conducted Aug. 8-21 and has a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points in either direction.

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