Our study of polarization in 2014 found that a major element of partisan polarization “has been the growing contempt that many Republicans and Democrats have for the opposing party.” Since then, levels of mutual contempt have grown, and “many” has become “most,” according to a separate survey of 2,008 adults, conducted on landlines and cellphones from April 12-19, 2016.
Today, 58% of Republicans have a very unfavorable impression of the Democratic Party, up from 46% in 2014 and just 32% during the 2008 election year. Among Democrats, highly negative views of the GOP have followed a similar trajectory – from 37% in 2008 to 43% in 2014 and 55% currently.
To gauge the depth of partisan dislike, the 2014 survey asked those who expressed very unfavorable opinions of the opposing party if they would go so far as to say “the party’s policies are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.”
Over the past two years, as the numbers of Republicans and Democrats with very unfavorable views of the opposing party have grown, so too have the shares saying the other party threatens the nation’s well-being: 45% of Republicans now view Democratic policies as a threat, up from 37% in 2014. And 41% of Democrats say the same about the Republican Party’s policies, an increase of 10 percentage points from two years ago.
The power of negative feeling toward the opposition is reflected in the reasons people give for identifying with their own party. Majorities in both parties point to the positive impact of their own party’s policies as a major reason for their choice of parties – but nearly as many cite the harm caused by the opposing party’s policies.