But the study also found troubling news for both political parties—namely, that the coalitions inside of each party often bring together disparate groups whose politics differ in many substantive ways, yet they may unite over just a couple of issues.
“The survey speaks to the two realities of political life — each party bound together in opposition to the other at the same time both continue to squabble internally,” the Post story says.
One of the biggest areas that the two parties differ on is the size and scope of the federal government. The difference has grown remarkably wide over the past 14 years since the same survey was conducted in 1998, as Republicans in that time have mounted a full-scale offensive against government.
The number of Republicans who feel strongly that government controls too much of daily life jumped from 2 percent in 1998 to 63 percent today, while the number of Democrats who strongly disagreed with that assertion doubled.
It is a fascinating divide that is reflected in the current fight between Mitt Romney and President Obama. One of the central tenets of running mate Paul Ryan’s infamous budget is how strenuously it goes about trying to slash the federal budget to reduce the size of government. Those Americans who agree with that philosophy will be squaring off in this election against the Americans who disagree.
When it comes to business, Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to believe regulation is necessary to protect the public, while Republicans say regulation does more harm than good.
Is it better to have smaller government with fewer services or bigger government with more services?
“Republicans overwhelmingly say people should take care of themselves; Democrats overwhelmingly say government should do everything possible to improve living standards,” the surveys says.
There is even a difference in how the two sides see the government’s role in job creation. According to the Republican view of the world, deficit reduction is more important than spending money in an effort to create jobs, while Democrats believe the opposite.
While the two sides also disagree sharply on issues like abortion, gay marriage and gun control, there are a few areas where they aren’t as far apart as one might have imagined.
“Almost half of Republicans and three-quarters of Democrats say they favor a policy that would allow illegal immigrants to apply for legal status,” the survey says. “And six in 10 Republicans, along with almost nine in 10 Democrats, say the government should regulate the release of greenhouse gases from power plants, cars and factories to reduce global warming.”