Polling News

Growing Partisan Gaps Reflected in Policy

August 10, 2023

It’s common knowledge that partisanship has increased over time, but a new analysis from Gallup finds these partisan lines have grown even further apart along policy lines. Political polarization has increased the most over the last two decades over issues of federal government power, global warming/the environment, education, abortion, foreign trade, immigration, gun laws, government-run healthcare, and income tax.

The partisan analysis is based on a comparison of Democratic identifiers and Democratic-leaning independents versus Republican identifiers and leaners. Numbers represent the percentage-point differences in the gaps between Democratic agreement and Republican agreement in 2023 compared with 2003. Issues with a blue change are those on which the Democratic over Republican gap has widened. Issues with a red change are those on which the Republican over Democratic gap has widened.

Why It Matters: Americans are divided based on their political identity, but these findings show that that divide has grown as these issues have moved to the front of our public discourse. 

By The Numbers:

  • Republicans have moved the gap on issues like the federal government’s power (50 points), immigration (29 points), and defending the police (15 points). 
  • Democrats have moved the gap on issues like global warming (33 points), abortion (30 points), and gun laws (24 points). 
  • Some issues moved evenly on the Republican and Democrat side. These issues include race relations, divorce, and Cuba – none of which are exactly the top of the news of the day.  

The Bottom Line: As Gallup notes, “The division in issues positions between parties, for one thing, can mean there is little variation within parties.” As a result, we see primary elections in both parties becoming a race to the base. This has implications for the first Republican presidential debate. Candidates could use their time on the stage to tell their story and outline their vision in a way that syncs with the broader viewers within the GOP on specific issues. 


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