Party Conflicts in D.C. Outstrip All Other U.S. Conflicts

The perceived levels of conflict between rich and poor, native and foreign born, or young and old Americans has fallen during the past year, according to a Pew Research Center study released today. Republicans and Democrats are a different matter.

Eighty-one percent of people polled by the Washington-based research organization say they believe there are strong conflicts between followers of the two main political parties. Fifty-eight percent of people identify the gap between rich and poor Americans as the second-largest conflict in the nation.

The results of twin surveys, taken less than a month after the presidential campaign, highlight the strong feelings left in the wake of the contest and the difficulty that a divided Congress will face in negotiating agreements to reduce the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt.

“There are big disputes,” says Rich Morin, senior editor at the Pew Social and Demographic Trends project. “On this one issue, Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, can all agree.”

The annual report was the first to ask about levels of perceived conflict between Republicans and Democrats, so comparisons with earlier periods aren’t available.

Racial Difference

Thirty-nine percent of respondents say there’s a strong conflict between black and white Americans, compared with 38 percent in 2011.

Almost half of all blacks surveyed say there are very strong or strong conflicts in at least four of the five categories surveyed, based on race, birthplace, political affiliation, income and age. About one-quarter of whites and one-third of Hispanics see strong levels of conflict among the different categories.

The 2012 study found that 83 percent of Republicans and 83 percent of Democrats agree there are significant differences between the two groups. Four of five independents agree. Roughly half of Americans surveyed say there’s a “very strong” conflict between the two parties, more than double the amount cited for any other conflicting groups.

People most likely to view strong conflicts between Democrats and Republicans tend to be younger, wealthier and more educated, according to the report.

Eighty-seven percent of supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney identify strong conflicts between the two parties, a view shared by 86 percent of people who say they voted for President Barack Obama’s re-election. Seventy-three percent of people who didn’t vote or who cast ballots for a third-party candidate identify strong conflicts between the Democratic and Republican parties.

The Pew study is based on two surveys, one of 2,511 adults taken from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5 with an error margin of plus or minus 2.2 percent, and one of 2,048 adults taken from Dec. 6 to Dec. 19 with an error margin of plus or minus 2.9 percent.