The Cultural Divide In The USA Is Holding Steady
It has been seen, time and again, that the USA is a something of a house divided unto itself. To be sure, some of what is on display now is not entirely new. However, some of the intensity and the distrust between the competing camps appears to have reached new heights-or lows, depending on the perspective.
In some ways, the USA has been divided into something of two main opposing camps. There are many other divisions, but in overall terms there appears to be two large groups of the population that are diametrically opposed to each other. Still, some of the more recent research indicates that this image of a culturally divided USA may be something of an exaggeration.
The acrimony that we see started a while back but it certainly reached new lows during the 2016 presidential elections. The divide was so stark and so prevalent that it permeated into various aspects of politics, culture, attitudes and even how Americans see themselves.
America was seeing a resurgence of a deep nationalism that had more to do with tribal behavior than an inclusive vision of the country. For some, they saw only those that were just like them as Americans while everyone else they viewed as "others". Television, cable shows, internet streaming, talk shows, radio shows, YouTube channels and the like all helped to broadcast and to fuel very different and dissenting voices. Unlike some years back Americans now had literally thousands of options as to where they received their news from. They could listen or watch the most extreme views presented as facts and the wildest extremisms portrayed as if it is mainstream.
A news event can be seen from an extreme right-wing point of view or can be reported with a radical left perspective. Even though it is the same news item, the coverage is so far apart and so polarized that viewers would not be faulted if they thought that the coverage was of two different events! Black is reported as white and up is reported as down. It seems that when it comes to the news almost anything goes.
Americans were evidencing a real, deep divide. The income levels between the very rich and the lower income Americans have continued to widen. The top one percent has a vastly disproportionate share of the wealth. At the same time a significant portion of the American public lives from pay cheque to pay cheque. One study showed that for some 30% of Americans they do not even have $400 in savings! The financial picture is bleak since the very rich are getting much richer while the poor fall behind. Even the vaunted middle class has not seen a rise in real income in close to two decades.
Education is another divider in the USA. Those that achieved a higher level of education tend to be more open to ideas and more welcoming to new Americans. Meanwhile, the less educated tend to lean towards being less open minded and hold more conservative, even discriminatory, views.
Americans that are white and have not had any college education are seeing themselves as victims. They see that the country has obviously changed in the last decades and, for the most part, they do not see that as a positive occurrence. America is a melting pot and in the larger cities there are literally people from around the globe. But, in rural America that is not the case. Some places remain as predominantly white as they were years ago. Immigrants have naturally sought out places that are welcoming and more multi-cultural. Those same immigrants have stayed well clear of old towns in the heartland.
To be sure there have been changes in attitudes. Even smaller towns with a more conservative outlook have seen a change in people's perspective. For example, on issues such as personal drug use, the views have shifted. Whereas the views might have been very strict on the use of so-called light drugs a few decades back, those views seem to have shifted to be far more accepting of people that use drugs for recreation or medial purposes. It is similar with other things like homosexuality and even same-sex couples. The influence of Hollywood, reality shows and the lives of celebrities have largely led to people accepting, if not condoning, the more liberal lifestyles.
Bouchard Fintech research would tend to confirm that there are many factors that divide Americans. At the same time, the divide is not as wide as it may first appear, at least not on a wide number of topics. For many Americans, there are any number of things that they do agree on even if the way those ideas are expressed may differ.
With political differences, and there are so many, here too there are points of commonality within the majority of the population. Interestingly, many Americans are not at all impressed with Congress. Even though the political views vary, the majority agrees that Congress and the US Government is not doing a good job. Americans may place more blame on the opposing political party but they do agree that their government is simply not fully working for the good of the average citizen.
In a similar vein, there is wide agreement on issues such as having medical coverage for all, for an increase in wages, for better benefits, improved education, lowering of sky-high tuition fees and so many other issues. The population may be divided on multiple fronts but they are united, at least the majority, in demanding better services, better benefits, lower taxes and less paperwork for the people. Simply put, there is much more that unites Americans than there is that divides them. Even culturally, the differences are certainly not as wide as they may initially appear.
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