A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows that the divide in the US is betting bigger between liberals and conservatives. Are you surprised? Did we need a poll to prove this? Actually, it's good to get numbers to back up the over-all feeling that most of us have. I've been saying for years that it appears as though the good-natured political banter of previous generations has been replaced by pure hatred...or at least disdain for 'the other side'. If you say that to someone with a strong opinion either way, they usually respond by saying they don't 'hate', but they just vigorously disagree with the other side. Tomato, tomahto.
The Pew survey says that in 1994, only 10 percent of respondants said they were unflinching liberals or conservatives...nothing would make them change their positions. That would mean that 90 percent of the country was probably leaning one way or the other, but were willing to listen to the other side, at least on occasion and depending on what the issue was. The new survey showed the number of those unflinching has doubled to 21 percent. That means 1 out of every 5 people you know have nothing but bad thoughts about those evil-doers on the other side of the aisle. It consumes them. They wake up in the middle of the night wondering how 'those people' live with themselves with all their twisted ideas and illogical dogma. They steer just about every conversation into something political. They consume as much information as they can to back up what they believe, but don't want to listen to information that may dispute those ideas. Seems like it would be hard to live with blinders on.
What caused the increase in the chasm between liberals and conservatives? Most people point their fingers at the media. The media didn't start the fire, but we sure do fan the flames. Back in the day, before 24-hour news cycles, the media repoorted the news without (much of) a slant. You knew that if you tuned into Tom Brokaw, you'd see the same stories that Peter Jennings and Dan Rather were reporting. Today, you can watch Fox and MSNBC side by side, and not see any of the same stories through the course of an hour...because each station picks out the stories they think their audience wants to see and gives the people what they want. So, instead of seeing different sides, any consumer can comfortably stay on their side of the fence without having their bubble burst. The same goes for talk show hosts. They know who their audience is and what they believe. If they don't back up those beliefs, they lose audience. I'm a part of the talk radio beast. I try to listen to all sides of an arguement, but it's hard to be impartial when you get pushed relentlessly by one side. It makes you want to push back...even harder.
Glenn Beck came out a couple of months back and said he regretted playing a role in 'tearing the country apart' during his time at Fox News. He went on to say "if we could have talked about uniting principles a little more, instead of just the problems, I think I would look back on it a little more fondly." I don't hold Beck any more responsible for tearing the country apart than I do Keith Olberman, Rush Limbaugh or Al Sharpton. But I don't exonerate any of them either.
Return to: Dave's Blog Blog