According to a new study, the political divide in America is worse than it has ever been.
While this finding is likely not a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention, the research does reveal some disturbing trends.
Conducted by Zachary Neal, an associate professor of psychology and global urban studies at Michigan State University, the study is among the first to measure polarization not only by examining the frequency of parties working together, but also by demonstrating how they've grown more distant than any other time in modern history.
Those who are affiliated with the Democratic party or the Republican party may be inclined to blame "the other side", but not so fast: Neal found that neither side is to blame for the growing rift. Regardless of the party that holds the majority in Congress or controls the White House, the political divide has widened.
In a press release, Neal explains,
What I've found is that polarization has been steadily getting worse since the early 1970s. Today, we've hit the ceiling on polarization. At these levels, it will be difficult to make any progress on social or economic policies.
Neal defines polarization in two ways: weak polarization, which occurs when parties simply don't work together; and strong polarization, which occurs when a party not only shuns the other side, but also outwardly attacks opponents or paints them in a negative light.
Strong polarization actually dropped in the early and mid-1970s, Neal found, but then took a steady turn for the worse by 1980. Fewer lawmakers are coming together to co-sponsor attempts at bipartisan bills, and instead, more are spending their time fighting with and criticizing the "other side".
To conduct the study, Neal analyzed publicly available data on who sponsored bills in Congress from 1973 to 2016. He specifically looked at how often politicians from both sides of the aisle co-sponsor legislation.
Although thousands of bills are introduced each year, the average representative or senator co-sponsors only about 200. And when they decide with whom to co-sponsor bills, they view nearly half of their colleagues as "the opposition."