An annual study of American attitudes about national politics and values released Tuesday discovered, to no oneâs surprise, how the nationâs divisions are growing alarmingly deep and wide.
More compared to half the people in both the Conservative and Democratic parties see the additional side as a âserious threat to the country,â the United states Values Survey by the Public Religious beliefs Research Institute (PRRI) found. In a panel discussion at the Brookings Organization to discuss the poll findings, Holly Olsen, a senior fellow on the Ethics and Public Policy Middle, said a âpre-Spanish Civil War mentalityâ was getting hold among voters.
The term âwarâ itself was mentioned many times by the panelists, in mention of the the way both left and right see national politics now as a zero-sum fight.
The good news â? or the bad, based on how one views it â? is that the divisions are mostly not regarding policy, but symbolism.
âWhen youâre at war symbols begin to matter more,â mentioned Robert Jones, CEO of PRRI. âConfederate monuments, flags â¦ the [border] wall is part of that.â
But, he added, âIf you talk policy, Americans are pragmatic.â
He reported a finding in the latest ideals survey, which PRRI has executed for eight years in a line, that around half of Republicans assistance a path to citizenship for unrecorded immigrants. He contrasted that with all the political rhetoric from President Trump about building a wall along the Oughout. S. -Mexico border.
âItâs the symbolic issues that are animating more than the actual policy issues,â Jones said. âWhen you turn from symbols to policy, thereâs less polarization.â
There was agreement one of the panelists Tuesday, including the conservative Olsen, that Trump fuels the discord by highlighting the most inflammatory community issues.
But the deeper query is, why are Americans so centered on symbols rather than substance when it comes to selecting and following political leaders? Could it be a recent phenomenon, brought on by the age of amusement over information that has dominated the planet since the advent of television? Or could it be a natural human instinct?
Joy Reid, a panelist who hosts the weekend show on MSNBC, stated that the election of former Leader Barack Obama in 2008 plus 2012 was a symbolic act for a lot of black Americans, and that Trump voters â? most of them white â? involved in countersymbolism.
Trump is âalmost a flip-side, bizarro-world Obama,â Reid said. âFor a lot of hardcore Obama supporters, Obama was the point. It wasnât specifically that he would do some specific economic thing,â Reid said. âIt was the symbolism of having somebody who was not white, somebody who has international roots in his family, somebody who represented a changing America.â
Similarly, Reid said, âFor a lot of Trump supporters Trump is the point. It isnât his policies. Itâs not what heâs going to do even for them.â
âJust having that man, who is white and very ethnonationalist in his whitenesss â¦ very proactive about putting forward his gender and racial identity and saying I represent this and Iâll attack the people who in your view are detriments to it â¦ thatâs kind of the point,â she mentioned.
Reid said that Democrats who want to âconvertâ Trump voters may be chasing the lost cause. âIâm not sure that can be done,â she mentioned. âHe has a power over at least a third of the country that I donât think anything can break.â
But while the PRRI study discovered 15 percent of Trump followers said thereâs nothing he could perform to lose their support, there were two times as many confirmed opponents of the chief executive. PRRI asked those who disapprove associated with Trump if there was anything can do to win them more than, and 33 percent of them mentioned there was not.
E. J. Dionne, a Washington Post columnist who had been also on the panel, disagreed along with Reid that no Trump voters could be won over. âTo me these numbers show that there are a substantial number of Trump voters or supporters who can be converted,â this individual said, citing Trumpâs approval figures, which are down to 39 percent within the average of all polls, while 56 percent disapprove.
âThis is a substantial drop-off from where Trump stood on Election Day 2016,â Dionne mentioned. A year ago, right after he was selected, Trump had a 44 percent acceptance rating, and a 50 percent disapproval rating.
Olsenâs explanations for the triumph of symbolism over substance, as well as the rise of Trumpism, had a lot more to do with a loss of what Jones called âcultural dominanceâ combined with economic weeknesses for some of the presidentâs supporters.
Trumpâs voter base âfeeds on fear,â Olsen mentioned.
But he cautioned against disregarding them, saying that would only boost the risk of violence.
âIf youâre educated and well-off, you tend to look at these reactions as being hopelessly naive, out of touch, racist, irrational and consequently worthy of being ignored,â Olsen said. âIf thatâs the response, you shouldnât expect them to give up their arms. â¦ If the answer is basically to build a wall around populism, what you simply do is build up tension, build up the partisanship. And then, if you go through some sort of economic decline that makes even more people despairing, you raise the possibility of a much more dangerous counterreaction.â
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