Polarization in America

February 28, 2014 • Volume 24, Issue 9
Does partisan conflict threaten democracy?
By Tom Price


Sen. Ted Cruz (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas symbolizes, for many Americans, not only the bitter partisanship that has stalled action in Congress but also the disagreements over cultural values and beliefs that separate liberal and conservative Americans. A Tea Party favorite, Cruz helped lead last year's government shutdown and threat to default on the national debt. (Getty Images/Bloomberg/Andrew Harrer)

Americans have become familiar with the kind of high-decibel, no-compromise political warfare between Republican and Democratic officeholders that led to a government shutdown last fall and threatened default on the national debt. While bitter partisanship is nothing new in American history, some social scientists fear the current wave is dangerously undermining national unity and the country's democratic traditions. Even the two main political parties are embroiled in infighting, with Republicans increasingly engaged in conflicts between traditional conservatives and those further to the right, and some liberal Democrats trying to push their party further to the left. Polarization in America is not limited to politics, either. People are moving into neighborhoods populated by others with like-minded views. And market researchers, pollsters and political scientists are discovering left/right preferences about what to drink, where to shop, how to be entertained and whom to marry.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Political Parties
May 26, 2023  Congressional Investigations
Jan. 06, 2023  Dark Money
Mar. 25, 2022  The Democrats' Future
Apr. 30, 2021  The GOP's Future
Oct. 13, 2017  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 09, 2016  Populism and Party Politics
Nov. 14, 2014  Nonprofit Groups and Partisan Politics
Oct. 24, 2014  Future of the GOP
Feb. 28, 2014  Polarization in America
Mar. 19, 2010  Tea Party Movement Updated
Mar. 20, 2009  Future of the GOP
Jun. 08, 2007  Democrats in Congress
Apr. 30, 2004  The Partisan Divide
Dec. 22, 1995  Third-Party Prospects
Jan. 11, 1985  Post-1984 Political Landscape
Nov. 09, 1984  Democratic Revival in South America
Sep. 14, 1984  Election 1984
Dec. 19, 1980  Future of the Democratic Party
Sep. 29, 1978  New Right in American Politics
Jan. 04, 1974  Future of Conservatism
May 03, 1972  The New Populism
Feb. 02, 1956  Foreign Policy in Political Campaigns
Dec. 22, 1954  Divided Government
Aug. 04, 1952  Two-Party System
Jun. 06, 1952  Party Platforms
Sep. 05, 1951  Southern Democrats and the 1952 Election
Oct. 06, 1948  Voting in 1948
Aug. 27, 1948  Republicans and Foreign Policy
Jul. 16, 1947  Third Party Movements
Aug. 22, 1940  Political Realignments
Jan. 13, 1938  The G. O. P. and the Solid South
Jul. 22, 1936  Third Party Movements in American Politics
Jul. 07, 1936  The Monopoly Issue in Party Politics
Nov. 12, 1935  Party Platforms and the 1936 Campaign
May 18, 1934  Political Trends and New Party Movements
Jan. 13, 1932  National Party Platforms, 1832–1932
May 16, 1928  Third Party Movements
Jan. 21, 1928  Major Party Platforms 1924–1928
Nov. 14, 1924  The Election and the Third Party
Sep. 05, 1924  Party Claims and Past Political Complexion of the States
Jun. 25, 1924  Third Party Platforms
Jun. 18, 1924  Thrid Parties: Past and Prospective
Conservatism and Liberalism
Journalism and the News
Party Politics
Party Politics