- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2018

It is rare that Republicans and Democrats agree on something. But the two battling factions do see eye to eye on one thing: They are troubled by stark political divides among Americans.

A Fox News poll finds that 78 percent of all U.S. voters are now either “extremely or very concerned” about the polarized nation; that includes 75 percent of Republicans, 72 percent of independents and 82 percent of Democrats.

According to the poll data, only health care — which concerns 83 percent of the public — outranks political division on the national roster of worries.

Tied in third place, Americans fret about the opioid addiction crisis and the national economy; both issues concern 74 percent.

Next on the list: natural disasters (70 percent), followed by race relations (69 percent), gun laws, (69 percent) climate change (64 percent), sexual harassment (63 percent), illegal immigration (66 percent) and the Central America “caravan” (59 percent.)

Some researchers and sociologists point to an increased emphasis on “identity” politics and non-stop media coverage as factors influencing polarization.  According to research from the Pew Research Center, the partisan divide has been building for a while.

“The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values — on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection and other areas — reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger,” the pollster said in a comprehensive review of the trends from 1994-2017.

“The magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education,” the research said, noting that during the 23 years of the study period, the average partisan gap has increased from 15 percentage points to 36 points.

• Jennifer Harper can be reached at jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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