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New study reveals partisanship has now reached record highs

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Earlier this month, Democratic strategist Paul Begala took a swipe at the GOP, cracking that "if Barack Obama cured cancer, the Republicans would attack him for putting oncologists out of work." Begala couldn’t have chosen a worse analogy for a president whose signature legislative achievement has increased the cost of care while narrowing the treatment options for the nation’s 14.5 million cancer patients. But therein lies the problem.

Much as liberals might complain that conservatives won’t cut Obama break, the left is in denial over his many failings. Not the least of these is the president’s frequent sarcasm, which may delight his base but has all the charm to non-believers of fingernails on a chalkboard. One thing the two sides should be able to agree on is that Obama has failed over the past five and a half years to “turn the page on the ugly partisanship in Washington,” as he vowed to do during the 2008 campaign.

Now a study has been released by the Pew Research Center that suggests the political deadlock is not just about Washington. In its summary of the findings, the Fiscal Times writes:

It reflects the sharpest ideological divide within the American public perhaps at any time in recent history. Democrats and Republicans are more deeply divided along ideological lines – and partisan rage and antipathy runs much higher than at any time in the past two decades. (See graph.)

The study notes that “the overall share of Americans who express consistently conservative or consistently liberal opinions has doubled over the past two decades from 10 percent to 21 percent. And ideological thinking is now much more closely aligned with partisanship than in the past. As a result, ideological overlap between the two parties has diminished.”

The Fiscal Times further notes:

This profound shift reflects movement on both sides of the political divide, with more Republicans shifting farther to the right and more Democrats embracing far more liberal views. At the same time, partisan animosity has mushroomed to the point where partisans genuinely believe the opposing party’s policies “are so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.” (See graph.)

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