Research on Americans' Policy Priorities This Year Reveals Growing Party Polarization

There are significant differences between what the Democratic and Republican parties hope to see the government address in 2019.
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An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial on December 22nd, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

An American flag flies near the Lincoln Memorial on December 22nd, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

The Pew Research Center has released its annual report on the American public's priorities, revealing significant differences between what the Democratic and Republican parties hope to see the government address in the coming year.

Polling was conducted through telephone interviews with a national sample of 1,505 adults ages 18 and older across all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The ranking of priorities is based on the percentage of the population who said the given issue was a top priority for President Donald Trump and Congress.

Overall, the top three policy priorities were strengthening the nation's economy, reducing health-care costs, and improving the educational system. However, Democrats and Republicans each ranked completely different sets of top policy issues. Democrats appear to care most about reducing health-care costs, improving the educational system, and protecting the environment, while Republicans seem to care most about defending the country from future terrorist attacks, strengthening the economy, taking steps to make the social security system financially sound, and dealing with the issue of immigration.

The report indicates the most divisive issues for Democrats and Republicans are climate change, protecting the environment, strengthening the military, defending against terrorism, and dealing with immigration.

The report goes on to quantify the polarization of the two major parties even more explicitly. Out of the total sample population, 53 percent of people say there is a great difference in what the two parties stand for—the highest that percentage has ever been since the question was introduced in 1987. In addition, 71 percent of respondents say they anticipate Democrats and Republicans in D.C. will "bicker and oppose one another more than usual this year," while just 21 percent have hope that the parties will work together to solve problems more than usual this year.

There have been some notable changes in priorities over the past eight years. Namely, 34 percent fewer people are worried about improving the job situation, 18 percent more people care about dealing with climate change, 18 percent fewer prioritize strengthening the nation's economy, and 16 percent more are concerned with improving the environment.

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