A majority of Americans believe political, racial, and class divisions are getting worse, according to the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Civility Poll, the second component of the Battleground Poll. This includes three-quarters or more of men and women; urban, suburban, and rural voters; approximately 7-in-10 or more voters in every age cohort; white, black, and Latinx voters; and nearly two-thirds of voters of all partisan stripes.
These observations contribute to the Civility Poll’s additional finding that the average voter believes the U.S. is two-thirds of the way to the edge of a civil war. On a 0-100 scale with 100 being “edge of a civil war,” the mean response is 67.23.
Consistent with the Civility Poll’s findings in April, this installment of the poll reveals significant contradictions within the electorate. Voters broadly agree with the premise that our political culture has become too uncivil and lacks a focus on solutions, and that common ground and compromise should be the goal for political leaders—while at the same time, equal numbers want leaders to “stand up to the other side” and stand up to “powerful special interests.”
These criticisms are not necessarily mutually exclusive, of course, but they do suggest a more complex and nuanced perspective on American politics, and one which goes beyond frustration over a decline in civility alone.
On other key questions, the poll found:
- Voters express concern and frustration about the uncivil and rude behavior of many politicians (88% agree, including 71% strongly agree). And this is a sentiment that is shared across the board, as well, though especially high among women voters, Democrats, and African American voters.
- Even more than rude and uncivil behavior, voters are tired of politicians in Washington who work with the powerful special interests instead of standing up to them (90% agree, including 73% strongly agree).
- More than eight in 10 voters believe “compromise and common ground should be the goal for political leaders” (87% agree, including 64% strongly agree) and that they are “tired of leaders compromising their values and ideals and want leaders who will stand up to the other side” (84% agree, including 63% strongly agree). This sentiment is more pronounced among Republicans and rural voters than it is among Democrats and independents, as well as suburban and urban voters.
- Independents are more likely to rank Fox News as responsible for political incivility than large newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times (38% very responsible) or CNN (37% very responsible) and MSNBC (31% very responsible). And independents are as—or more—likely to assign blame to Democratic political leaders responsible as they are to Republican political leaders (35% and 32% very responsible, respectively).
“Our Civility Poll finds that eighty percent of voters say that they both demand compromise from political leaders, but want political leaders who will stand up to the other side. That creates mixed messages for even the most skilled political leader trying to decide whether to be a fighter or a dealmaker,” said Mo Elleithee, Executive Director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service.
The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground Civility Poll is the second component of the Battleground Poll, believed to be one of the first national polls of registered voters gauging opinion on the state of civility in our national political conversation. The results give a sense of voter sentiment on the state of our discourse, how bad voters believe it to be, who they blame for a sense of incivility, and whether civility and compromise are priorities for them.
See the questionnaire, charts, tables and analysis here.