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June 12, 2014

In US, political split outgrows the voting booth

WASHINGTON (AP) — Political polarization in America has broken out of the voting booth.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds Americans are divided by ideology and partisanship not only when they cast ballots, but also in choosing where to live, where to get their news and with whom to associate.

And peaceful coexistence is increasingly difficult.

According to the poll, the share of Americans who hold across-the-board conservative or liberal views has doubled in the last decade, from 10 percent in 2004 to 21 percent today. Only 39 percent of Americans have an even mix of liberal and conservative positions, down from 49 percent 10 years ago.

The numbers of ideological purists are larger among the politically engaged than the general public, suggesting the ideological stalemates that have become more common in Washington and statehouses around the country are likely to continue. A third of those who say they regularly vote in primaries have all-or-nothing ideological views, as do 41 percent who say they have donated money to a campaign.

And among partisans, ideological purity is now the standard. Majorities in both parties hold either uniformly liberal (on the Democratic side) or conservative (among the GOP) views.

The shift toward ideological purity has been more visible among Republicans due to the popularity of the tea party, seen most recently this week in House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's loss to a tea party-based challenger in Virginia, but the survey found it's happening in nearly equal measure among Democrats.

Those differences in visibility are partly due to the Democratic hold on the White House, according to Pew Research Center Vice President Michael Dimock.

"Levels of alarm about the direction of the nation, and about the 'threat' the other party poses to the country, are substantially higher on the right than on the left right now, and at least in part this reflects the fact that Barack Obama is in the White House," Dimock said.

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