Title: Battleground Civility Poll: New Poll Shows Near Universal Concern Over Level of Political Division and High Levels of Self-Segregation
Just over three months before the 2022 midterm elections, the majority of Americans support dealmaker candidates to restore hope.
Washington, D.C. – With just months to go until the fall’s midterm elections, voters feel strongly that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Fueled by self-segregation into like minded communities, Americans feel that political division remains a key problem in the nation’s civil discourse.
According to the latest Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) Battleground Civility Poll, voters are expressing a higher level of concern over the level of polarization in the country. When asked about political division on a scale of 0 to 100 (with 0 being no division at all and 100 being the edge of civil war), respondents gave a mean score of 71.74, a slight increase to feelings in the previous battleground poll with a mean score of 70.36. There was a decrease in voters who agree with the statement “I am optimistic about the future because young people are committed to making this country a better place to live for everyone,” with a net decrease of 23%. However, while there was a notable decline in agreement on this statement, there was majority agreement (55%) among voters aged 18-34, signaling that the younger generation still views themselves as agents of change.
The poll also highlighted the extent to which voters have separated themselves from others who are not like them, surrounding themselves with close friends and family that are remarkably similar to themselves. A majority say that all or most of their friends (60%) “share the same political beliefs” as they do, while only 38% say some or none do. Similarly, a majority of voters say that most of their close friends and family “vote for the same candidates” (55% all/most, 37% some/none) and “are in the same political party” (57% all/most, 40% some/none) as they are. The trend holds when looking at other key measures, with voters offering that most of their close friends and family “share the same religious beliefs” (53% all/most, 45% some/none), “are in the same ethnic group” (67% all/most, 32% some/none), and “are in the same economic class” (51% all/most, 47% some/none). And with the exception of sharing their economic class, Republicans and Democrats are both more likely than independents to have “a lot” or “some” of their friends fit all of these aforementioned criteria than independents.
Hope remains in other portions of the polling, particularly as it pertains to candidates willing to compromise to get things done. Two thirds of respondents said they were more likely to vote for a candidate willing to compromise with others as opposed to a candidate who consistently fights for values. This answer has remained consistent over more than two years of polling, with at least 65% of respondents selecting the candidate willing to compromise to create change in each poll.
This response is particularly prominent among younger voters in the 18-34 demographic with 72% preferring the compromise candidate over the fighter. Self-described centrists also strongly prefer compromise and civility. These voters make up 67% of respondents to this survey, highlighting a key bloc of voters that overwhelmingly prefer the candidate willing to compromise (73%).
“While political division across the country remains high, people are offering a clear path forward for political leaders,” said Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Executive Director Mo Elleithee. “With a considerable group of voters preferring compromise oriented candidates, and a majority who consider themselves centrists, there is hope for those looking for more civility in our politics.”
“Voters might be frustrated now, but the optimistic spirit of the country remains,” said Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group. “There is a clear opening for politicians able to talk effectively about change and willing to embrace deal making. While voters might be increasingly retreating to comfortable cocoons of similarity, political leaders willing to take bold steps to preach and practice civility could be historic leaders.”
“When we polled in January, we said in our memo that ‘easily the most positive piece of news out of the whole survey’ was the high percentage of voters who agreed with the statement ‘I am optimistic about the future because young people are committed to making this country a better place to live for everyone,’” said Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. “Unfortunately, this has diminished greatly. With a decrease from 58-38 to 47-50, it is cause for concern. Young people themselves remain positive about their future impact, with 55% agreeing, yet that is down from January’s 74% who agree with that statement.”
Fully seventy- seven percent (77%) of voters think the country is on the wrong track, including two-thirds of voters (67%) who strongly believe the country is on the wrong track. Even a majority of Democrats (62%) think the country is on the wrong track. This dissatisfaction is driven both by Republican frustration (93%) and by frustration among the progressive wing of the Democratic party as seventy-three percent (73%) of very liberal Democrats also think the country is on the wrong track.
Generic Congressional Ballot
While President Biden’s job approval numbers remain underwater, the generic congressional ballot conducted in this poll showed a statistical tie between Democrats (48%) and Republicans (46%). This provides both parties with some reason for optimism: is a positive sign for Republicans, as GOP pollster Ed Goeas noted in his analysis that the GOP being within 5-points on this measure has generally led to the GOP gaining seats in Congress. However, Democratic pollster Celinda Lake notes that the two-point lead for Democrats highlights that Democrats are energized post-Roe and the GOP has not presented a good alternative on issues that are important to centrist Democrats and independents.
Economic anxiety is another key driver of this frustration about the direction of the country. Goeas noted in his analysis that his experience at being on both sides of this issue is that it takes six months of positive economic news to change voter attitudes, so some of the frustration with the direction of the country and with the job performance of Biden is likely to remain until the fall elections. Lake points out that the shift in attitudes from May to July is a positive sign for Democrats in the upcoming midterms, showing positive economic movement leading into November.
Joe Biden’s job performance rating has suffered from the same factors that are causing the country to feel even more down on the direction it is moving. His job performance is most highly correlated with feelings about the economy.
Compromise vs. Fighter
A majority of likely voters select the political leader willing to get things done and compromise (66%) over the political lead who consistently fights (30%). Over two years of asking this question, the leader willing to work together has always scored over sixty-five percent and has always had a better than two-to-one advantage over the fighter.
The latest GU Politics Battleground Civility Poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by Republican pollster and former GU Politics Fellow Ed Goeas and Brian Nienaber of the Tarrance Group, and Democratic pollsters Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, Sandra Markowitz, and McCauley Pugh of Lake Research Partners between July 17-21, 2022, and has a margin of error of + 3.5%.
To learn more about the poll, see the questionnaire, charts, tables, and analysis visit: https://politics.georgetown.edu/battleground-poll/
Academics, researchers, and journalists can also access the full dataset to assist in their own research and analyses. [Note: Any use of this data and material must credit the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground and Civility Poll.]
ABOUT THE GEORGETOWN INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE BATTLEGROUND POLL:
The Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service Battleground and Civility Poll is a national bipartisan survey measuring political opinion and civility among registered voters in the United States. Produced by Republican strategist Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic strategist Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, this polling series offers unique polling analysis and insights from two top pollsters from different sides of the aisle.
Initiated in June 1991, and housed at GU Politics since April 2019, the Battleground Polls have gained widespread media recognition as reliable bellwethers of national opinion and voters’ intentions. The Battleground data projected the outcome of the 1992, 1996, and 2004 presidential race more precisely than any other similar effort in the country, including those of the major TV networks and national newspapers. In addition, Battleground Polls have consistently been major predictors of what is going to happen in approaching Congressional elections.
With the GU Politics partnership, a Civility Poll was introduced in 2019 to track voter attitudes about polarization in politics.
ABOUT THE INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND PUBLIC SERVICE:
The Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) connects and empowers students and the broader community to improve and reimagine politics and public service and reaffirm its promise. Founded as part of the McCourt School of Public Policy in the fall of 2015, GU Politics programming is open to the entire Georgetown community.
ABOUT THE MCCOURT SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY:
The Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy is a top-ranked public policy school located in Washington, D.C., the heart of the policy world. The McCourt School’s mission is to teach our students to design, analyze, and implement smart policies and put them into practice in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, in the U.S. and around the world.