June 27, 2016

Partisanship in the U.S. isn’t just about politics, but how people see their neighbors

In an era of increasing polarization, Republicans and Democrats disagree over many things – and that extends even to the traits and habits they’d like or dislike in a new neighbor. Some of the widest gaps in how people of different parties see new neighbors are over new community members who own guns, don’t believe in God, regularly attend religious services or have served in the military.

A new Pew Research Center study of partisanship and political animosity finds that about four-in-ten Republicans (43%) and Democrats (42%) said it would be easier to befriend a new community member who shared their partisan affiliation. Conversely, 31% of Democrats and 27% of Republicans say it would be harder to get along with a new neighbor from the other party.

Yet the partisan differences over hypothetical characteristics of new neighbors go beyond their party or their ideology.

Meet the neighbors: Partisan differences over traits of new community members

Democrats express more negative views of gun ownership than any of the other 15 traits asked about in the survey – even more negative than the prospect of having a Republican or a conservative as a new neighbor.

About four-in-ten Democrats (41%) say it would be harder to get along with a newcomer to their community if they owned guns, while just 7% say it would be easier; 51% say it wouldn’t be easier or harder to get along with a gun owner.

By contrast, 26% of Republicans say it would be easier to get along with a new neighbor who owned guns, just 6% say it would be harder and 68% say, in effect, it would not make much of a difference.

Many Republicans say it would be more difficult to make friends with a new neighbor who didn’t believe in God. About four-in-ten Republicans (43%) say it would be harder get along with someone who didn’t believe in God, while 46% say it would be neither easier nor harder and just 10% say it would be easier. Among the 16 traits, the only one viewed about as negatively by Republicans is being a liberal (40%).

Democrats have mixed views of a neighbor who didn’t believe in God: 21% say it would harder to get along with such a neighbor, 15% say it would be easier and 64% say it would be neither harder nor easier.

Republicans are about as likely to say it would be easier to get along with a regular churchgoer (41% say this) as say it would harder to get along with an atheist (43%). Democrats’ views of a new neighbor who attended services regularly are, like their views of an atheist neighbor, more mixed.

More than twice as many Republicans (42%) as Democrats (18%) say it would be easier to get along with a new arrival to their community who served in the military. Few Democrats say it would be harder to befriend someone who served; just 6% say this, as do 5% of Republicans. More Democrats (75%) than Republicans (53%) say it would be neither easier nor harder to get along with someone who served in the military.

Democrats are somewhat more likely than Republicans to say it would be easier to get along with a new neighbor who had attended college (by 11 percentage points), who likes hip-hop (by 9 points) or is gay or lesbian (also 9 points). But majorities in both parties say it would not be either harder or easier to get along with these types of neighbors.

Topics: Political Attitudes and Values, Political Party Affiliation, Social Values, U.S. Political Parties

  1. is a research assistant focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous5 months ago

    Whenever we depart from voluntary cooperation, and try to do good by using force, the bad moral value of force triumphs over good intentions. Both political spectrums are about force. These studies are funded to continue the divide, not to break it down. Conservatives are about the conservation of value in the hands that add value. Democratic are about the equity in voice in tandem with a vote. They both agree wealth and income should remain with voice, and this means keeping the two connected and not separated. Discussion to is the common ground. This study will never affect any positive change.

  2. Anonymous5 months ago

    Great information and research. Its a pleasure to examine and digest this type of well detailed look at the tensions dividing the American people. One only needs to read the “comments” listed in the Washington Post or NY Times to see the anger, the division, the lack of civility being spewed… Please keep up the good work and continue to shed light into the dark corners of our nation.

  3. Anonymous5 months ago

    Please quit trying to pigeonhole people as liberal or conservative . Those labels are artificial as your non significant data demonstrates.

    1. Anonymous5 months ago

      The labels liberal, conservative, libertarian, etc. do, however, give a starting point in understanding people, but only a starting point. Every person is an individual and understanding a person requires much more than labels. I don’t see where the data is artificial.