It’s not just Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton who are so different from each other.
On the eve of back-to-back political conventions, Republicans and Democrats across the land see their neighbors, their country and their world through very different eyes, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll. Muslims, Mexicans, guns, gays and God all look different to them, and help define the people who make up two very different parties.
Outlooks merge only fitfully. The one thing they do agree on: Politicians don’t get them.
“Democrats and Republicans view issues with a different lens,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the nationwide poll. “The gaps in perception help explain why the parties look like they have two entirely different scripts. It really is stunning.”
The result is a politics often described as dysfunctional, plagued by gridlock and engulfed in a toxic cauldron that reflects stark ideological fissures. Congress’ inability to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court and develop a response to a potential public health emergency with the Zika virus are only the most recent examples.
The political climate is tense. The public faces two very unpopular choices for president and a campaign more about division and fear than optimism.
The bottom line is there is already a wall ‑ a wall separating Democrats and Republicans.
Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion
Perhaps nothing illustrates the chasm more than how they see Muslims.
In a year of frequent terror attacks, Trump has urged a ban on foreign Muslims entering the country. Trump adviser Newt Gingrich on Friday proposed mass surveillance of American mosques, interviews of all American Muslims and deportation of any who profess a belief in Shariah law.
The poll also asked which was the better approach to fighting terrorism at home: more scrutiny of American Muslims, even at the expense of their civil rights, or strengthening ties with Muslim communities to enlist their support.
Democratic voters by 82-10 percent back the community outreach approach, as did two-thirds of independent voters. Republicans were evenly split: 46 percent in favor of stronger ties with the Muslim community, 45 percent supporting surveillance even in violation of a person’s rights.
Eighty-two percent of Democrats also reject a temporary ban on Muslims entering this country, as do 66 percent of independents.
Some prominent Republicans have criticized religious-based bans or tests, such as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Trump’s choice as his running mate. But Republicans overall support a ban by 59-38 percent.
Asked about terrorism, 69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independent voters agreed that homegrown terrorists were a greater threat to Americans than those from overseas. Among Republican voters surveyed, 53 percent said foreign terrorists were the greater threat.
Analia Lang, 38, a chef from suburban Chicago who is backing Clinton, said the question evoked a distinction without a difference.
“A terrorist is a Muslim with a bomb, and a crazy white guy shooting up a movie theater,” she said.
Another 2016 flashpoint is Mexicans and Mexican immigrants. Trump has called illegal Mexican immigrants rapists, proposed a wall on the border and lambasted an Indiana-born Mexican-American judge.
Rank and file Republicans are not as vocal as their candidate. But they are different from Democrats.
Democrats by 79-12 think Mexican immigrants have had a positive impact on the United States. Republicans tend to agree, but by a much narrower margin, 50-36.
Democrats also are much more inclined to allow those here illegally to remain“if they have a job, learn English and pay a fine.” Fully 82 percent of Democrats think such immigrants should be allowed to stay under those circumstances, while just 13 percent think they should be deported.
A majority of Republicans also support allowing them to stay, though the number drops to 57 percent and the number favoring deportation jumps to 41 percent.
On guns, Democrats such as Clinton have made a push for greater regulation in the wake of mass shootings such as the one in Orlando.
Among voters those fault lines and view of guns are brightly drawn.
Democrats by 77-16 think the country would be safer with fewer guns; Republicans by 79-16 think the country would be safer with more guns.
Democrats also favor a ban on assault-style weapons, by 74-23. Republicans oppose that, 66-30.
It’s also a year when gays and transgenders have inflamed passions, from the sadness over the slaughter in a gay nightclub in Orlando to the controversy over transgender people in bathrooms.
Democrats are much more open to the changing culture.
By 71-20, they say the growing acceptance of gay, lesbian and transgender Americans has had a positive impact on the country. Republicans by 52-40 think that’s mostly had a negative impact.
In fact, a plurality of Democrats, 38 percent, say things are not changing fast enough. A majority of Republicans say they’re changing too fast already.
Religion is another fault line. Forty percent of Republicans surveyed think that faith should “an important part of making public policy,” versus just 21 percent of Democrats and 23 percent of independents.
Finally, trade has been a central issue in the presidential race because it capsulizes concerns over how global change has dramatically altered the American industrial landscape, once a solid source of jobs and an economic bulwark of local communities. Trump has promised to renegotiate trade deals. Clinton has backtracked on her initial support, while secretary of state, for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact among 12 Pacific Rim nations.
The resonance of the issue was apparent in the poll.
Among Democrats, a narrow majority – 46-41 percent – said trade had had a positive impact. But Republicans and independents took a more negative view – 64 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
As alien as their views might be to each other on key issues, a majority of voters in the poll, regardless of political affiliation, generally agree on one thing:
Their political leaders are seriously out of touch.
As a leader, you make good decisions, you make bad decisions. We agree or not agree. The dice didn’t happen to fall your way. . . . Does that mean you revoke your role to make a decision?
Linda Conley, poll respondent, Stone Harbor, N.J.
Eighty percent of registered voters said the people who made decisions for the country “see things differently than the public,” the poll found.
Just 14 percent said the two were in sync.
Linda Conley, a 60-year-old business owner from Stone Harbor, New Jersey, who is leaning toward Trump but might change her mind, complained about “the stalemate” on Capitol Hill, no matter the issue.
“I think many others around the country prefer that our leaders actually make decisions and not just sit undecided or unmoving on issues for a year,” she said. “We are just in a quagmire right now and have been for a while and don’t think that serves anyone.”
There’s weariness, as well, with the constant drumbeat of the same campaign talking points.
“Who’s not aware of how Trump feels about immigration?” said Lamin Bandeh, a 52-year-old parking company employee from College Park, Georgia, who sat on the fence as far as the presidential race. “There nobody who doesn’t know what Hillary Clinton said about the emails. We are very well educated. We don’t need to hear these things. So let them start talking about issues.”
This survey of 1,249 adults was conducted July 5-9, 2016 by The Marist Poll sponsored and funded in partnership with McClatchy. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the contiguous United States were contacted on landline or mobile numbers and interviewed in English by telephone using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation from ASDE Survey Sampler, Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. Respondents in the household were randomly selected by first asking for the youngest male. This landline sample was combined with respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers from Survey Sampling International. After the interviews were completed, the two samples were combined and balanced to reflect the 2013 American Community Survey 1-year estimates for age, gender, income, race, and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. There are 1,053 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.0 percentage points. The error margin was not adjusted for sample weights and increases for cross-tabulations.