The Nature of Partisan Conflict in Public Opinion: Asymmetric or Symmetric?
What are the dynamics of partisan conflict in the mass public in the United States? Has this conflict been driven by Republicans moving to the right across a wide range of issues, or have Democrats contributed to this as well? Have these changes been symmetric, occurring for both sides, or asymmetric, occurring for just one side? Understanding how the partisan gaps have widened may shed light on potential prospects for reversing extreme political conflict in public opinion. This paper examines this question with an analysis of opinion trend data over the last 40 years. It includes an original analysis of these trends among racial and ethnic groups. We find that symmetric partisan changes have only occurred among whites. Overall partisan differences have been less for Blacks and Hispanics than for whites.