My trust in election polling has decreased tremendously over the last three election cycles. That is not to say that polling can’t be useful.
Politico released a poll conducted by Seven Letter Insights that polled 1500 Americans who voted in 2020. They asked Republicans and Democrats their honest feelings about whether they agree or disagree with statements about the other party.
It’s eye-opening and sad.
- Seventy-seven percent of Democrats say they have less respect for Republicans than they did four years ago, 81 percent of Republicans said the same of Democrats.
- Among Democrats, 74 percent said Republicans are ruining the country. Among Republicans, 80 percent said Democrats are ruining the country.
- Among Democrats, 72 percent said they are less likely to trust Republicans, and 75 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to trust Democrats.
- Fifty-two percent of Democrats said they would be disappointed if their child became a Republican, and 55 percent of Republicans said they would be disappointed if their child became a Democrat.
- Fifty-nine percent of Democrats say Republicans are not as smart as Democrats. Fifty-five percent of Republicans say the opposite.
- Fifty percent of Democrats would be upset if their child married a Republican. Fifty-one percent of Republicans said they would be upset if their child married a Democrat.
- Fifty-two percent of Democrats say they would be less likely to hire a Republican. Fifty percent of Republicans say they would be less likely to hire a Democrat.
Republicans and Democrats are equally intolerant of one another.
This polarization has been an ongoing trend. Pew Research conducted a similar poll in 2019, albeit with a larger and broader sample size, and they have watched this trend for several years.
In 2019, they found:
- Fifty-five percent of Republicans said Democrats are “more immoral” than other Americans; 47 percent of Democrats said the same about Republicans.
- Sixty-four percent of Republicans said that Democrats are more closed-minded than other Americans; 75 percent of Democrats said the same about Republicans.
- Sixty-three percent of Republicans said Democrats were more unpatriotic than other Americans; 23 percent of Democrats said the same about Republicans.
- Thirty-six percent of Republicans said Democrats are more unintelligent than other Americans; 38 percent of Democrats said the same about Republicans.
Pew Research noted, “Partisans also generally agree about their inability to agree on ‘basic facts.'”
They noted that 73 percent of the public, which includes 77 percent of Republicans and 72 percent of Democrats, said voters in both parties “not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on the basic facts.”
I believe we’ve seen that demonstrated in great detail throughout 2020 from the COVID-19 pandemic, view of the media, and view of the electoral results. The Politico poll also highlights this.
Why is this?
There is no single answer, U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in his book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other – And How to Heal, pointed to disconnectedness.
“As natural, healthy tribes – family, friends, workplace, and neighborhood have crumbled, we’ve turned to anti-tribes: an us-versus-them politics and a rage-fueled media complex that exploits our divisions for clicks,” he wrote.
That is undoubtedly a big part of it, and people on both sides more and more exist inside an echo chamber, and social media and search engines, unfortunately, perpetuate that. I recently watched The Social Dilemma. They point out how algorithms feed our interests. Your search engine results and Facebook feed are probably very different than mine.
The growing amount of time people spend online instead of with each other (something that has only grown worse during this pandemic) exasperates that.
What is the solution? Sasse touches on where we should start, and I think this fundamental for those who follow Christ. Unfortunately, it is abundantly clear that many Christ-followers are part of the problem when they should be part of the solution. This doesn’t mean we need to agree, but the way we treat those with whom we disagree needs to change.
“Reclaiming the American idea against all this means returning to the beginning: to our fundamental commitment to the inexhaustible, inviolable dignity of every person, and to our recognition that an effective and enduring politics can only be built atop this fundamental conviction,” he wrote.
People we disagree with are created in the image of God just like we are. Because they are image-bearers, they have dignity and worth.
Do we treat those we disagree with that way?
What would be different if we did?
This is not optional. Jesus commanded us to love our enemies.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 6:43-47, ESV).
By just loving those with whom we agree, we act no differently than the world. Our approach to politics and those we view as political opponents MUST be different.