Since the 2016 election, voters are now more polarized and divided than ever before on race, gender, and immigration. 

According to a Pew Research Center study, the organization conducted an online survey of 11,001 U.S. adults, including 9,114 registered voters, between July 27 and Aug. 2, 2020.

The study shows a growing division between Republican and Democratic voters since the 2016 election. 

“One thing was that we had already been divided to an extent, but this recent presidency, if it is done anything has revealed how great the division is,” Jay Wyatt, a former activist of San Diego Unity, told Scriberr News. He participated in a number of Black Lives Matter protests in the Southern California region this year. 

Some disagree with this analysis, such as Anthony Cabassa, Chairman of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly in California, who believes that mainstream media and social media is the main source of the division within the country. 

“The media plays a lot in it, they hyperinflate some of the conversations to be had, when you have journalists that are making everything out to be racist, whether it’s an opinion piece or they’re just grabbing a small sample size, and just running with it as a generalized notion,” Cabassa told Scriberr News.

American Politics and Mass Political Behavior associate Professor at the University of California Riverside, Loren Collingwood, said the division on race ideas began in 2008, during the Obama administration. 

“Political scientists have investigated this a lot, and it goes back to the 2008 election when Obama got in,” Collingwood told Scriberr News.

“And then the 2010 Tea Party response to him was cloaked in a lot of racial imagery, racialize language, images of Obama dressed up as like a makeshift African dancer or something very stereotypical, and you would see images like that at rallies.”

Race Relations

In 2016, 11 percent of Trump voters said, “it is a lot more difficult,” to be a black person in this country than white, while 57 percent of Clinton voters agreed, according to the Pew Research study. 

Today, 74 percent of Biden voters believe “it is a lot more difficult,” while 9 percent of Trump voters agree.

Cabassa said the disparities black Americans may face depends on many factors, such as location and work industry.

“Today, I see that it’s extremely hard to be a white person, because white silence is violence,” Cabassa said. “I mean, you have college professors calling on people to admit that they’re just inherently racist, because of the way that they’re born.”

Generational wealth is another factor that may make it difficult for African Americans and Latinos to succeed in society, Cabassa explained. 

“I would say, as a whole, I can kind of see it but again this is their country, like it was predominantly white. They ran the systems, they own the systems, they have generational wealth,” Cabassa said. 

“Unfortunately, a lot of the black Americans today, or even Latino or Hispanic Americans today are immigrants or sons of immigrants, so they don’t have that generational wealth,” he said.

B, an activist and member of the United Panthers explains that it has always been more difficult to be a black person in America.

“I mean, name a time in history when black people weren’t being slaughtered, chained, or targeted, the difference in responses of the question does not surprise me one bit,” B said.

Some believe that the percentage increase on the Democratic side is due to recent social movements, like Black Lives Matter. 

“I believe recent events have created a change in perspective within voters’ beliefs. I’m not sure if these views rooted from quarantine where people were forced to pay attention, but I think that has been a huge reason why people’s views have changed,” B said. 

Due to cell phone evidence and social media, people online see more videos of police brutality. 

“You may not know that police target certain areas or neighborhoods; those happen to be disproportionately black. Those happened to be a disproportionately racial minority, often,” Collingwood said. 

“Then you see this information, and you see so many people getting worked up about it. You have to think to yourself, well, this is a just cause. So you have seen a lot of Democrats in general, start to move in that direction,” she added. 

Immigration

According to Pew Research Center, 32 percent of Trump voters and 84 percent of Biden voters believe that newcomers and immigrants strengthen the country.

“They [immigrants] strengthen our country with a lot of the work that most people will not or do not want to do,” Angel Martinez, lifelong Republican, told Scriberr News. 

“In the same token, we need to develop a better system with them coming in because we taxpayers contribute to their free living for most immigrant families like welfare,” Martinez said. 

In 2014, the Center of Immigrant Studies found that about 63 percent of non-citizen households used at least one welfare program compared to 35 percent of native-headed households. 

Generally, undocumented immigrants are not eligible for government assistance. Those with a lawful permanent resident, green card, or have been a resident for five years can be eligible for a limited amount of assistance, according to the National Immigration Forum

“I’ve personally heard friends and family tell me, ‘I’m not going to get a higher paying job,’ or, ‘I’m not going to take that $2 raise because they don’t qualify for food stamps,’ or don’t qualify for section eight housing,” Cabassa said. 

“It incentivizes them to just stay on the system to achieve the bare minimum, to be able to survive, but they don’t, they’re not really moving places, they’re not getting better jobs,” he said. 

Since the start of Trump’s presidency, he has reshaped and adjusted the U.S immigration system. 

The administration has made more than 400 executive actions on immigration, such as the border and interior enforcement, refugee resettlement and the asylum system, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration courts vetting and visa processes, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

There are more than 40 million immigrants in the U.S., migrating from various countries. About one-fifth of the world’s migrants live in the U.S., according to the Pew Research Center. 

Islam

There has also been a shift in both parties about Islam. Fifty-one percent of voters do not associate Islam with violence, while 45 percent do. Seventy-two percent of Trump supporters associate Islam with violence, and 74 percent of Biden voters do not. 

“Since 9/11, Muslims, in general, have gotten a lot of stares. You see a woman on airplanes in a hijab; you hear somebody speaking Arabic, people around take notice of that and are fearful,” Arab-American and resident of Redlands, California, Layla Abbas told Scriberr News. 

“That shouldn’t be right, being Muslim, it’s not violence, and Islam is not perpetuating violence,” she said.

Abbas said she does not always feel comfortable saying her family is from Palestine due to fears of being misunderstood. 

“If I say Palestine, somebody might say, ‘Palestine is not even real,’ or ‘Palestine is Israel’s land.’ If I’m talking to somebody new and I don’t know who they are, I will say Israel, which is sad that I have to do that,” Abbas said. 

There are differences in attitudes about immigration for both Democratic and Republican voters, but the percentage of both parties believing that newcomers in the country boost American society have increased. 

Today, 60 percent of voters believe immigrants strengthen the country, a 10 percent increase compared to four years ago. Only 37 percent say they threaten American customs and values, also a 10 percent decrease from four years ago, according to Pew Research Center.

Gender Inequality

Gender inequality is another issue both Democrats and Republicans are divided over. Economists have long debated what contributes to the wage gap between men and women.

Seventy-nine percent of Biden voters believe that women still face significant obstacles when trying to advance in society, and 26 percent of Trump voters agree. 

“I do believe that there is gender equality across the board. I don’t think I have ever been paid less because I am a woman,” lifelong Republican, Shannon Holt told Scriberr News. 

Holt said she doesn’t believe women are hindered from doing anything men can do and that both genders have equal opportunities.

She also believes the Democratic party thrives on hindering and crippling people emotionally. 

“You play on people’s emotions that have experienced some racial or gender discrimination or something, if you target those people, then you’re going to stir up emotions. The one way you can get people to react is to hit them emotionally, so I don’t think that they ever let these things die,” Holt said. 

A narrow majority of voters––55 percent––say that women still face significant obstacles that make it harder for them to get ahead than men. By comparison, fewer––44 percent––say barriers that once made it harder for women to get ahead are now mostly gone, according to the Pew Research Center. 

Political science professor at the University of La Verne, Jason Neidleman, said traditional views explain the large divide on gender issues. 

“If you’re a traditionalist, who believes that women should find fulfillment in the family, in the home and private sphere, they don’t belong in the public sphere––then I suppose there really wouldn’t be obstacles to women’s equality,” Neidleman told Scriberr News. 

“Things like lack of equal access to the best jobs and positions of power wouldn’t be a barrier to any ambition that they would foresee for women. But that’s, of course, a position that’s grounded in sexism and patriarchy,” he said.  

Political Party, or Identity?

Throughout the Pew Research study, the political division increases on the issues of race, gender, and immigration. 

The parties have increasingly become a means by which people form an identity or a conception of themselves. 

“What you’ll see if you do polling is that you can ask people about a policy question, and the response will change dramatically if you frame it as a proposal coming from one party or the other,” Neidleman said. 

“And so what the political science literature says is, this is because people now see the parties as part of their identity, as opposed to just a way to express my political preferences,” he said.

People are now less likely to be friends with people of the opposing political party. 

Americans are now more likely to physically move to a congressional district that favors their political views, known as the “Big Sort,” Neidleman explained. 

Local politics are beginning to run on national policies, too, furthering the political divide. 

“National politics tends to be contested, much more antagonistic. In general, our politics have nationalized, so that local political races now even are decided based on national questions, and local politicians run on big national debates,” Neidleman said. 

Lastly, social media is another proponent of polarization. Big platforms and access to political information have the most controversial, provocative articles and opinions, Neidleman said. 

“Once something becomes about your very conception of yourself, your core identity, you’re going to be much less willing to compromise. If you hold the political position a little bit at a distance, you might be more willing to compromise,” Neidleman said. 

Written ByMaydeen Merino

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