It has grown into a holiday fixture alongside that stupid little elf and critical takedowns of classic Christmas songs. I’m talking about the annual batch of blog posts with advice on how to deal with your politically opposite family members around the holiday dinner table.
It’s not just that we feel annoyed by our conservative uncles. A significant portion of Americans say they actually “hate” a political party.
Almost half the adult population said they hate someone else, according to a Grinnell College National Poll released last month. People in politics and media draw the most hatred — 32 percent of poll respondents said they hate a politician, followed by 26 percent for a political party and 18 percent for a member of the press.
Analysts said a majority of people younger than 35 picked out at least one entity from a list to hate, while a majority of older Americans did not. While 68 percent said they don’t feel it’s OK to express hate in a public manner, 26 percent said it is OK. The data was gathered by Des Moines-based Selzer and Company.
“The normalization of hate among younger adults is startling, especially when it is compared to older generations,” Grinnell political science professor Peter Hanson said in a press release.
Those findings are corroborated by a series of other recent studies finding Americans are harboring a lot of negative feelings about the people we see as our political or cultural foes.
In another survey, the portion of partisans who say they hate the other party held steady between 10 and 20 percent between 1980 and 2000, but then the figures lurched upward. As of 2016, around half of each party said they hate the other, according to National Election Study data analyzed in the new book “Prius or Pickup?: How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide.”
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As another measure, Americans’ views about the president have grown more closely tied to partisanship. The gap between in-party approval and out-party disapproval has grown wider since the Eisenhower era, according to a Pew Research Center analysis this year. President Donald Trump, for example, has the lowest average approval rating from members of the opposing party of any modern president, but also nearly the highest average approval rating from members of his own party.
So our political landscape is not only getting more hostile, but it also is increasingly a team sport, squared off into red jerseys against blue jerseys. It’s like the XFL, but with millions of lives at stake.
When we dismiss our political opponents as evil and ascribe wicked motives to them — that is, to believe our rivals actually intend to increase human suffering — it becomes very easy to tune out and disengage from the discourse. Hate gives us permission to retreat into our self-manufactured echo chambers, where hate only grows stronger.
Hating a politician is one thing, and I don’t shed any tears for President Donald Trump or U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, but it is quite another thing to hold contempt for people we actually know. I don’t think these trends lead us anywhere worth going.
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