We know what issues divide Democrats and Republicans, but what about the issues that divide people within both parties? New polls show that, among other things, Democrats are split on religion and Republicans public health insurance. (FiveThirtyEight)
NH: We’re one day away from what’s on track to be the most divisive election in history. I want to take a step back and start considering what happens after the election is over.
If Republicans lose the presidency and the Senate, Democrats will need to decide what policies they want to advance under President Biden. If Democrats lose, the GOP will have to set a second-term agenda--a task that’s wide open given that they haven’t updated their party platform since 2016.
This piece from FiveThirtyEight offers a glimpse at what those policies would be. It highlights the issues that divide people within each party--or in other words, the issues that are less likely to get full buy-in. The data come from two new polls: one from The New York Times and Siena College and another from the Public Religion Research Institute.
Democrats are largely united on actions related to managing the pandemic. A strong majority support business shutdowns and would support a national mask-wearing mandate, as well as an additional stimulus package for Covid-19 relief. But they’re split on a national mandate for a vaccine: 47% of Democrats want this, but 48% of Democrats don’t.
The polls also found broad support for a wide range of liberal policies--some moderate, but also some further to the left. Most Democrats support, for instance, investing in renewable energy and raising the corporate tax rate.
Most also support a public health insurance option, making college tuition free at public institutions, guaranteeing Americans a minimum basic income, and access to affordable childcare. The one policy that doesn’t garner majority support is reparations for African Americans (50% of Dems are for it, 49% against).
In the above chart, let me add one cautionary note about the very high support shown by Republicans for the UBI. It comes from the PRRI survey, but I can't find any other survey that comes close to this figure.
In a Pew survey taken in August, just 22% of Republicans say they support a universal basic income. Overall, the Pew survey found that all voters oppose it, 54% to 45%. So I would not include the UBI in any list of off-the-shelf policies that are politically feasible.
Where Democrats differ is not so much in policy ideas, but in outlook. They’re almost evenly split over whether the standard bearer of their party should be centrist or more liberal; about 45% initially supported Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren in the primaries.
As I’ve said before, the tension between these wings of the party is sure to be a major theme in a Biden presidency. He will need to move much further to the left to sustain the support of the younger members of the party and of the public.
Democrats are just as closely divided over religion. 46% of Democrats believe that religion “causes more problems in society than it solves,” while 53% disagree. The answers are polarized along racial and regional lines: African-American and heartland Democrats express high religious attachment, while white and bicoastal Democrats do not. (See “Fewer Than Half of Americans Go To Church "Monthly or More.’”)
Compared to Democrats, Republicans are split on more issues. There’s less consensus about how to manage the pandemic. Most support the business lockdowns and would not support a mask-wearing mandate or an additional stimulus package, but a sizable bloc of Republicans (around 30% to 40%) disagree. They’re also almost evenly split on offering a public health insurance option (45% support, 47% against), in investing in renewable energy (45% support, 46% against), and on immigration policies such as separating families at the border (45% support, 53% against).
Republicans are also more divided over how they see the world. They disagree over how much discrimination blacks and Hispanics face, for instance, and whether they want Trump to act more “presidential.”
Across multiple questions, PRRI’s survey found substantial differences between the Republicans who said they trust Fox News and the Republicans that don’t. In general, the “Fox News Republicans” take more hardline positions and show the most support of Trump’s actions as president.
So where are Republicans most united, and what does that signal for their way forward? They overwhelmingly support two things: Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court and not wanting to raise the corporate tax rate.
More than anything, the former is what we can bet on in a second Trump term: more efforts to appoint conservative judges at all levels.
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ABOUT NEIL HOWE
Neil Howe is a renowned authority on generations and social change in America. An acclaimed bestselling author and speaker, he is the nation's leading thinker on today's generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America's future.
A historian, economist, and demographer, Howe is also a recognized authority on global aging, long-term fiscal policy, and migration. He is a senior associate to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., where he helps direct the CSIS Global Aging Initiative.
Howe has written over a dozen books on generations, demographic change, and fiscal policy, many of them with William Strauss. Howe and Strauss' first book, Generations is a history of America told as a sequence of generational biographies. Vice President Al Gore called it "the most stimulating book on American history that I have ever read" and sent a copy to every member of Congress. Newt Gingrich called it "an intellectual tour de force." Of their book, The Fourth Turning, The Boston Globe wrote, "If Howe and Strauss are right, they will take their place among the great American prophets."
Howe and Strauss originally coined the term "Millennial Generation" in 1991, and wrote the pioneering book on this generation, Millennials Rising. His work has been featured frequently in the media, including USA Today, CNN, the New York Times, and CBS' 60 Minutes.
Previously, with Peter G. Peterson, Howe co-authored On Borrowed Time, a pioneering call for budgetary reform and The Graying of the Great Powers with Richard Jackson.
Howe received his B.A. at U.C. Berkeley and later earned graduate degrees in economics and history from Yale University.