American politics has long been defined as red vs. blue, and everything about the 2012 election speaks to the chasm that separates the two parties. But a major new study highlights how those divisions are only a part of the dynamic shaping the political landscape.
The study, conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, underscores that the gulf between Republicans and Democrats has never been wider. Partisan polarization now presents a potentially insurmountable barrier to governing for whoever wins the White House in November.
But the study — based on a poll of more than 3,000 randomly selected adults — also illuminates in striking new ways another reality about the contours of politics. Like families, the parties coalesce to repel threats from outside — typified this summer by the scorched-earth tactics of the campaigns of President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney. But both parties also are fractious coalitions of people who may converge on some core issues but whose worldviews, economic situations and attitudes on policy are far from uniform.