An almost unfathomable gap divides public attitudes on basic issues involving gender, race, religion and politics in America, fueled by dramatic ideological and partisan divisions that offer the prospect of more of the bitter political battles that played out in Washington this month.
A new ABC News/Fusion poll, marking the launch of the Fusion television network, finds vast differences among groups in trust in government, immigration policy and beyond, including basic views on issues such as the role of religion and the value of diversity in politics, treatment of women in the workplace and the opportunities afforded to minorities in society more broadly.
While these issues divide a variety of Americans, this poll, produced for ABC and Fusion by Langer Research Associates, finds that the gaps in nearly all cases are largest among partisan and ideological groups - so enormous and so fundamental that they seem to constitute visions of two distinctly different Americas.
• Among all adults, 53 percent think women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace. But that ranges from 68 percent of Democrats to 38 percent of Republicans, a difference of 30 percentage points. Comparing the most unlike groups, liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans, it's 76 vs. 35 percent.
• Forty-one percent overall think nonwhites have fewer opportunities than whites in society. Fifty-six percent of Democrats say so, as do 62 percent of liberal Democrats (more than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 51 percent). Among Republicans that dives to 25 percent.
• Forty-three percent of Americans say it would be a good thing if more women were elected to Congress - but the range here is from six in 10 Democrats and liberals alike to just 26 percent of conservatives and 23 percent of Republicans. Instead two-thirds or more in these latter two groups say it makes no difference to them.
• Just 23 percent overall say it would be a good thing if more nonwhites were elected to Congress; 73 percent instead say it makes no difference to them. Seeing this as a good thing peaks at 50 percent among liberal Democrats (far more, in this case, than the number of nonwhites themselves who say so, 29 percent). Among conservative Republicans, it's 5 percent.
• Thirty-nine percent of adults say they trust the government in Washington to do what's right; six in 10 don't. Apparently reflecting views of the Obama administration, trust peaks at 62 percent of Democrats, as many liberals and 69 percent of liberal Democrats. Just a quarter of Republicans and conservatives, and 18 percent of conservative Republicans, feel the same.
• Support for legal status for undocumented immigrants, 51 percent overall, ranges from 77 percent among liberal Democrats to 32 percent among conservative Republicans. Views on this issue also show sharp differences among other groups - for example, nonwhites vs. whites, 70 vs. 43 percent; and adults younger than 40 vs. their elders, 61 vs. 47 percent.
• Fewer than half of all adults, 45 percent, say political leaders should rely somewhat or a great deal on their religious beliefs when making policy decisions. But again the range is wide: Six in 10 conservatives, as many Republicans and 65 percent of conservative Republicans hold this view. That falls sharply to 39 percent of Democrats and independents alike, four in 10 moderates and 32 percent of liberals.
Partisan and ideological differences of 20, 30, 40 and even 50 points raise challenging questions of how political accommodation can occur in this country - a consideration that may gain urgency in the aftermath of the 16-day partial government shutdown prompted by a political dispute over the new federal health care law. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll this week, 75 percent of liberal Democrats supported that law; 76 percent of conservative Republicans opposed it.
These sorts of divisions, it should be noted, aren't new; wide gaps between partisan and ideological groups long have been apparent on these issues and others. But they're of particular interest now given the evidence of the damage they can do to the ability of Congress and the White House to keep the government running.
Another result speaks to alienation more generally: Just 31 percent of Americans overall say "people like you" are well represented in Congress. It peaks among nonwhites and Democrats, but even then just at 47 and 43 percent, respectively - falling to 24 percent of whites and 27 percent of conservatives.
This ABC News/Fusion survey was produced to take a fresh look at some basic attitudes on gender, race and ethnicity, religion and politics, all fodder for the Fusion network, an ABC News/Univision joint venture to be launched Oct. 28. The network is to cover entertainment, lifestyles and news from the perspective of young, English-speaking Hispanics.
RACE AND PARTISANSHIP - There are racial and ethnic differences in many of the attitudes measured in this survey, partly reflecting partisan predispositions. In ABC News/Washington Post poll data, 24 percent of whites call themselves Democrats and 30 percent are Republicans, while among nonwhites the gap is far wider - 43 percent identify themselves as Democrats, vs. just 10 percent as Republicans.
Including people who describe themselves as independents but say they lean toward one of the two parties, the gap widens even further. Among whites, 42 percent are Democrats or lean that way; 48 percent are Republicans or Republican leaners. That compares to a 70-21 percent leaned Democrat vs. leaned Republican division among nonwhites.
Nonwhites, separately, are 11 points more apt than whites to describe themselves as liberals.
MILLENNIALS - Millennials, another group on which Fusion will focus coverage, customarily are described as Americans born from 1982 to 2004; for adults, that's age 18 to 31. They're not much different from other age groups on most of the attitudes measured in this survey, with two exceptions. As noted, along with under-40s more broadly, they're more apt to favor legal status for undocumented immigrants. And they're 12 points less apt than their elders to say politicians should base policy positions on their religious beliefs, a result that fits with customarily lower levels of religiosity among young adults.
There's another difference among millennials vs. older adults, reflecting another longstanding attribute of young Americans: Their comparative lack of engagement in politics. Among adults age 18 to 31, just 54 percent report that they're registered to vote. That soars to 87 percent among those 32 and older. Indeed it increases steadily with age, peaking at 94 percent of seniors.
OTHERS - There are other differences among groups, albeit less consistently across issues. For example, support for legal status for undocumented immigrants is considerably higher among whites who've gone through college vs. those who have not, 53 vs. 37 percent. The less-educated group may feel a greater sense of economic vulnerability.
On the role of religion, not surprisingly, a broad 74 percent of evangelical white Protestants say political leaders should rely at least somewhat on their religious beliefs in making policy decisions. That falls to half as many non-evangelical white Protestants, 37 percent, and drops further, to 16 percent, among Americans who profess no religion.
On gender issues, 63 percent of women think women have fewer opportunities than men in the workplace; fewer men, 43 percent, agree. And women are 13 points more apt than men to call it a good thing if more women were elected to Congress, 49 vs. 36 percent.
Similarly, 54 percent of nonwhites say it'd be good to elect more women, compared with 38 percent of whites. Interestingly, nonwhites are less apt to say it would be a good thing to elect more nonwhites to Congress (as noted above, 29 percent) than they are to say the same about women. Still fewer whites, 20 percent, see electing more nonwhites as a good thing.
Another interesting result is that, among Republicans, partisanship trumps gender in views on electing women to Congress: There's essentially no difference between Republican men and GOP women in calling this a good thing, 22 vs. 24 percent. There is a difference, though, between Democratic men (54 percent see electing more women as a good thing), compared with Democratic women (among whom more, 69 percent, hold this view).
Views on electing more women and nonwhites, it should be noted, don't necessarily translate into a sense that doing so would ease future budget disputes. A quarter of Americans think a more diverse Congress would make future negotiations easier (37 percent of liberals, vs. 10 percent of conservatives). Few think it would make things worse. But 66 percent think it'd make no difference either way.
METHODOLOGY - This ABC News/Fusion poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 17-20, 2013, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect.
The survey was produced by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.