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Opinion

This massive survey on the differences between liberals and conservatives has 4 fascinating takeaways

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Gay Marriage,Republican Party,Democratic Party,Polls,Conservatism,Liberalism,Pew Research Center,Becket Adams

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have evolved at basically the same rate on the issue of homosexuality, there is still a portion of the population that opposes interracial marriage and the American public holds a generally favorable opinion of cable news, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The report, titled “Political Polarization in the American Public,” takes a detailed look at the broad issue of American politics, partisan ideologies and the supposed divide between the right and the left.

Unsurprisingly, according to the survey, which was conducted from Jan. 23 to March 16, Republican and Democratic lawmakers in recent years have moved away from the so-called “moderate” middle, the growing divide being a mutual phenomenon.

But apart from finding that, no, Republican lawmakers are not the only ones who have moved away from the center and polarization is not asymmetric (you can read more about that here), the Pew study, which surveyed approximately 10,013 adults, reported some fascinating details regarding the personal and political habits of both conservatives and liberals.

1. Love and Marriage

Both conservatives and liberals overwhelmingly support the idea of a family member marrying someone of a different race, with 71 percent of conservative respondents saying it wouldn’t matter to them and 85 percent of liberals saying the same.

However, the Pew poll also found that 23 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents said that they’d be unhappy with an interracial marriage in their family. Only 1 percent of respondents identified as “consistently liberal” said they would have a problem with someone marrying a different race.

Conservative survey respondents in the 18-to-29 age group said they'd be happy with an interracial marriage in their family. Opposition to interracial marriage came primarily from respondents 30 and older.

Eleven percent of respondents identified as “mixed” said they’d be unhappy with an interracial marriage in their family.

Further, 11 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents said they would be unhappy if a family member married someone born and raised outside the U.S. Only 1 percent of “consistently liberal” respondents hold this same position.

 

And here’s something interesting: When respondents were asked to switch out race and nationality with gun owners and people without college degrees, the results were reversed.

Only 1 percent of “consistently conservative” respondents said they’d be unhappy if a family member married a gun owner, while 31 percent of “consistently liberal” respondents said they’d be unhappy.

Twenty-two percent of respondents identified as “mixed” said they’d be unhappy with a gun-owner marrying in.

The survey also found that only 8 percent of hard conservative respondents would be unhappy if a family member married someone without a college degree, while 17 percent of hard liberals said they’d be unhappy.

In short, the Pew survey found that some of the more vicious stereotypes thrown around by conservatives and liberals are apparently based on an element of truth (as all stereotypes are).

2. Moving in Tandem

Republican and Democratic lawmakers have long held different views on homosexuality, but the two groups have both evolved on the issue at basically the same rate.

“Both Democrats and Republicans have become more liberal on this question over the years, as fewer now say that ‘homosexuality should be discouraged (rather than accepted) by society,’ ” Pew reported.

“However, the current 21-point partisan gap on this question is only slightly wider than the 16-point gap in 1994,” the report added.

 

Interestingly enough, Republican lawmakers have largely become more conservative since 1994 on almost every major issue, including government regulation, welfare spending and financial support for the military. The question of whether “homosexuality should be discouraged” is one of two areas where Republican lawmakers have moved consistently with their Democratic colleagues (the other area being illegal immigration; Democrats have overwhelmingly changed their position on that issue).

3. Open Spaces

Less shocking than the previous poll findings, but still notable, is the fact that conservative and liberal respondents have very different opinions on the ideal community.

Liberals like living close together in communities where everything is within walking distance. Conservatives, on the other hand, like their personal space. They prefer to be spread apart and left alone, even if it means having to drive a few miles to get from place to place.

 

Simply put, conservative respondents said they prefer the rural and small-town lifestyle, while a majority of liberal respondents said they prefer living in the city.

But there is some consensus on the ideal community: Both groups said that it’s important that they live near family, areas that provide outdoor recreational activities and good schools.

Neither group had anything nice to say about the suburbs.

4. News You Can Use

The American public has a generally favorable, or at least neutral, opinion of both MSNBC and Fox News, but the same cannot be said for Pew's “consistently conservative” and “consistently liberal” respondents.

In what may be the poll’s least-shocking finding, it turns out that conservative respondents detest MSNBC and liberal respondents detest Fox News.

What is interesting, however, is that the poll found that conservatives are likely to hold a favorable opinion of Fox, clocking in at around 74 percent, which is in line with the public’s generally favorable opinion of the network, while liberals don't seem to care much for MSNBC, which they only give an approval rating of 45 percent.

 

“One thing that differs when it comes to MSNBC is that it does not draw the same uniformly positive reviews from consistent liberals that FNC does from consistent conservatives. While nearly half (45 percent) of consistent liberals view MSNBC favorably, that’s not much better than how MSNBC rates among those with mixed ideological views (38 percent),” the Pew report reads.

“Nearly half of consistent liberals offer no opinion of MSNBC. By contrast, the vast majority of consistent conservatives offer an opinion of Fox News, with 74 percent favorable and just 5 percent unfavorable,” the reported added.

Now, there are two ways to read this: It could be that conservatives are a little too dedicated to Fox News, unwilling to speak ill of its programming, and liberals are simply more honest in their critique of their preferred network. Or it could be that MSNBC's programming is so terrible that even “consistent liberals” can’t bring themselves to hand it a favorable rating.

Having watched a good deal of MSNBC over the past few years, and considering the fact that the Pew report shows that even non-ideological respondents have an unfavorable opinion of the NBC News offshoot, we’re going to go with the second option.

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