“The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown,” by Paul Taylor and Pew Research Center, is being released this week in a paperback edition that includes nearly 100 pages of new text, charts and updates to the original 2014 hardcover edition. Here, Paul Taylor shares eight takeaways from the book’s all-new opening chapter, “Political Tribes.”

1The Rising Partisan Gap in Presidential ApprovalIn an era of head-snapping racial, social, cultural, economic, religious, gender, generational and technological change, Americans are increasingly sorted into think-alike communities that reflect not only their politics but their demographics. The result has been a rise in identity-based animus of one party toward the other that extends far beyond the issues. These days Democrats and Republicans no longer stop at disagreeing with each other’s ideas. Many in each party now deny the other’s facts, disapprove of each other’s lifestyles, avoid each other’s neighborhoods, impugn each other’s motives, doubt each other’s patriotism, can’t stomach each other’s news sources, and bring different value systems to such core social institutions as religion, marriage and parenthood. It’s as if they belong not to rival parties but alien tribes.

And their candidates in 2016 might seem to be running for president of different countries. As the chart above illustrates, the partisan gap in how Americans evaluate their presidents is wider now than at any time in the modern era.

2The Changing Face of America, 1965-2065This political sorting has roots in two simultaneous demographic transformations that America is undergoing. The U.S. is on its way to becoming a majority nonwhite nation, and at the same time, a record share of Americans are going gray. Together these overhauls have led to stark demographic, ideological and cultural differences between the parties’ bases.

We now have one party that skews older, whiter, more religious and more conservative, with a base that’s struggling to come to grips with the new racial tapestries, gender norms and family constellations that make up the beating heart of the next America. The other party skews younger, more nonwhite, more liberal, more secular, and more immigrant- and LGBT-friendly, and its base increasingly views America’s new diversity as a prized asset.

3At the turn of the century, there was no partisan difference in the votes of young and old. But in recent elections, there has been a huge generation gap at the polls. And Democrats and Republicans have become much more ideologically polarized.

The Young/Old Voting Gap, 1972-2012

Today 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat in their core social, economic and political views, while 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, up from 64% and 70% respectively in 1994. The same 2014 Pew Research Center study also found a doubling in the past two decades in the share of Americans with a highly negative view of the opposing party.

Republicans Shift to the Right, Democrats to the Left

4The cleavages between the political tribes spill beyond politics into everyday life. Two-thirds of consistent conservatives and half of consistent liberals say most of their close friends share their political views. And liberals say they would prefer to live in cities while conservatives are partial to small towns and rural areas. In their child-rearing norms, conservatives place more emphasis on religious values and obedience, while liberals are more inclined to stress tolerance and empathy. And in their news consumption habits, each group gravitates to different sources.

Main Source of Government and Political News

Generation Gap in Partisan AffiliationTo be clear, not all of America is divided into these hostile camps. Even as partisan polarization has deepened, more Americans are choosing to eschew party labels. This group is heavily populated by the young, many of whom are turned off by the cage match of modern politics. They are America’s most liberal generation by far, but when asked to name their party, nearly half say they are independents. No generation in history has ever been so allergic to a party label.

5Identity-based hyperpartisanship is thriving at a time when a majority of Americans tell pollsters they’d like to see Washington rediscover the lost art of political compromise. As ever, many Americans are pragmatists, ready to meet in the middle.

Yet nowadays these Americans are the new silent majority. They don’t have the temperament, inclination or vocal cords to attract much attention in a media culture in which shrill pundits and 140-character screeds set the tone. Those most averse to political compromise are ideologically consistent conservatives and liberals, majorities of whom want their side to prevail.

Congress’ members are more polarized by party than at any time since the Reconstruction Era. And recent elections have produced something else unprecedented in American political history – one party winning the popular vote in five of the past six presidential contests even as the other party has recently run up its biggest congressional and statehouse majorities in a century.

Compromise in the Eye of the Beholder

6The Democratic base, dubbed the “coalition of the ascendant” by journalist Ronald Brownstein, is often the coalition of the unengaged, especially during non-presidential elections. In 2014, for example, just 19.9% of 18- to 29-year-old citizens voted, a record low. The old turning out in force more than the young is nothing new – that seems hard wired into the human life cycle. This matters little when the generations vote alike, but it makes a huge difference when, as now, they don’t.

Thus we have the alternating red and blue election outcomes of the recent past, with President Obama’s victories in the big turnout years of 2008 and 2012 playing hopscotch with the GOP romps in the low turnout midterms of 2010 and 2014. This in turn has contributed to a Washington that’s paralyzed by gridlock and a hothouse for the sort of rancor that can fire up the hyperpartisans but can also send nonpartisans farther off to the political sidelines. And so the cycle of mean-spirited, broken politics perpetuates itself.

7Might 2016 be the year we break the fever? So far it’s not looking that way. The public remains in a foul mood, frustrated by stagnant incomes, a shrinking middle class and gruesome global terrorism. Just 19% say they trust the government to do what’s right. Moreover, most Republicans and many Democrats say they believe that, on the issues that matter most to them, the other side is winning. And not since the early 2000s has a majority of the public said the nation is on the right track, making these past dozen years the longest sustained stretch of national pessimism since the onset of polling.

Public trust in government near historic lows

Date . Individual polls Moving average
3/25/2019 PEW 17 17
12/04/2017 PEW 18 18
4/11/2017 PEW 20 19
10/04/2015 PEW 19 18
7/20/2014 CNN 14 19
2/26/2014 PEW 24 18
11/15/2013 CBS/NYT 17 20
10/13/2013 PEW 19 19
5/31/2013 CBS/NYT 20 20
2/06/2013 CBS/NYT 20 22
1/13/2013 PEW 26 23
10/31/2012 NES 22 19
10/19/2011 CBS/NYT 10 17
10/04/2011 PEW 20 15
9/23/2011 CNN 15 18
8/21/2011 PEW 19 21
2/28/2011 PEW 29 23
10/21/2010 CBS/NYT 22 23
10/01/2010 CBS/NYT 18 21
9/06/2010 PEW 24 23
9/01/2010 CNN 25 23
4/05/2010 CBS/NYT 20 23
4/05/2010 PEW 25 22
3/21/2010 PEW 22 24
2/12/2010 CNN 26 22
2/05/2010 CBS/NYT 19 21
1/10/2010 GALLUP 19 20
12/20/2009 CNN 20 21
8/31/2009 CBS/NYT 24 22
6/12/2009 CBS/NYT 20 23
12/21/2008 CNN 26 25
10/15/2008 NES 31 24
10/13/2008 CBS/NYT 17 24
7/09/2007 CBS/NYT 24 24
1/09/2007 PEW 31 28
10/08/2006 CBS/NYT 29 29
9/15/2006 CBS/NYT 28 30
2/05/2006 PEW 34 31
1/20/2006 CBS/NYT 32 33
1/06/2006 GALLUP 32 32
12/02/2005 CBS/NYT 32 32
9/11/2005 PEW 31 31
9/09/2005 CBS/NYT 29 30
6/19/2005 GALLUP 30 35
10/15/2004 NES 46 39
7/15/2004 CBS/NYT 40 41
3/21/2004 PEW 36 38
10/26/2003 GALLUP 37 36
7/27/2003 CBS/NYT 36 43
10/15/2002 NES 55 46
9/04/2002 GALLUP 46 46
9/02/2002 CBS/NYT 38 40
7/13/2002 CBS/NYT 38 40
6/17/2002 GALLUP 44 43
1/24/2002 CBS/NYT 46 46
12/07/2001 CBS/NYT 48 49
10/25/2001 CBS/NYT 55 54
10/06/2001 GALLUP 60 49
1/17/2001 CBS/NYT 31 44
10/31/2000 CBS/NYT 40 38
10/15/2000 NES 44 42
7/09/2000 GALLUP 42 39
4/02/2000 ABC/POST 31 38
2/14/2000 PEW 40 34
10/03/1999 CBS/NYT 30 36
9/14/1999 CBS/NYT 38 33
5/16/1999 PEW 31 33
2/21/1999 PEW 31 31
2/12/1999 ABC/POST 32 32
2/04/1999 GALLUP 33 34
1/10/1999 CBS/NYT 37 34
1/03/1999 CBS/NYT 33 37
12/01/1998 NES 40 33
11/15/1998 PEW 26 30
11/01/1998 CBS/NYT 24 26
10/26/1998 CBS/NYT 26 28
8/10/1998 ABC/POST 34 31
2/22/1998 PEW 34 35
2/01/1998 GALLUP 39 33
1/25/1998 CBS/NYT 26 32
1/19/1998 ABC/POST 31 32
10/31/1997 PEW 39 31
8/27/1997 ABC/POST 22 31
6/01/1997 GALLUP 32 26
1/14/1997 CBS/NYT 23 27
11/02/1996 CBS/NYT 25 27
10/15/1996 NES 33 28
5/12/1996 GALLUP 27 31
5/06/1996 ABC/POST 34 29
11/19/1995 ABC/POST 25 27
8/07/1995 GALLUP 22 22
8/05/1995 CBS/NYT 20 21
3/19/1995 ABC/POST 22 20
2/22/1995 CBS/NYT 18 21
12/01/1994 NES 22 21
10/29/1994 CBS/NYT 22 22
10/23/1994 ABC/POST 22 20
6/06/1994 GALLUP 17 19
1/30/1994 GALLUP 19 20
1/20/1994 ABC/POST 24 22
3/24/1993 GALLUP 22 25
1/17/1993 ABC/POST 28 25
1/14/1993 CBS/NYT 24 25
10/23/1992 CBS/NYT 22 25
10/15/1992 NES 29 25
6/08/1992 GALLUP 23 29
10/20/1991 ABC/POST 35 35
3/06/1991 CBS/NYT 47 42
3/01/1991 ABC/POST 45 46
1/27/1991 ABC/POST 46 40
12/01/1990 NES 28 33
10/28/1990 CBS/NYT 25 32
9/06/1990 ABC/POST 42 35
1/16/1990 ABC/POST 38 38
6/29/1989 CBS/NYT 35 39
1/15/1989 CBS/NYT 44 41
11/10/1988 CBS/NYT 44 43
10/15/1988 NES 41 41
1/23/1988 ABC/POST 39 40
10/18/1987 CBS/NYT 41 43
6/01/1987 ABC/POST 47 43
3/01/1987 CBS/NYT 42 44
1/21/1987 CBS/NYT 43 43
1/19/1987 ABC/POST 44 42
12/01/1986 NES 39 44
11/30/1986 CBS/NYT 49 43
9/09/1986 ABC/POST 40 44
1/19/1986 CBS/NYT 42 44
11/06/1985 CBS/NYT 49 43
7/29/1985 ABC/POST 38 42
3/21/1985 ABC/POST 37 40
2/27/1985 CBS/NYT 46 42
2/22/1985 ABC/POST 43 45
11/14/1984 CBS/NYT 46 44
10/15/1984 NES 44 41
12/01/1982 NES 33 39
11/07/1980 CBS/NYT 39 32
10/15/1980 NES 25 30
3/12/1980 CBS/NYT 26 27
11/03/1979 CBS/NYT 30 28
12/01/1978 NES 29 31
10/23/1977 CBS/NYT 33 32
4/25/1977 CBS/NYT 35 34
10/15/1976 NES 33 36
9/05/1976 CBS/NYT 40 35
6/15/1976 CBS/NYT 33 35
3/01/1976 GALLUP 33 34
2/08/1976 CBS/NYT 36 35
12/01/1974 NES 36 36
10/15/1972 NES 53 53
12/01/1970 NES 54 54
10/15/1968 NES 62 62
12/01/1966 NES 65 65
10/15/1964 NES 77 77
12/01/1958 NES 73 73

Pew Research Center

8Politics is never static, which means today’s state of affairs isn’t necessarily a template for the future. This campaign has already illuminated deep fissures not just between both parties but within them. A lot of political business will get transacted between now and November. No matter what the outcome, the political firmament is likely to look different next year.

The most hopeful take on this long season of political discontent comes from our nation’s most astute early observer, Alexis de Tocqueville, who noted nearly two centuries ago that American democracy isn’t as fragile as it looks; confusion on the surface masks underlying strengths.