Democrats and Republicans aren’t just split on how to solve the nation’s biggest problems — they can’t even agree what the problem is in the first place.
A national poll from Monmouth University published Monday shows a massive divide between the priorities of voters on the left and right.
On the left, 68% of self-identified Democrats said a lack of compromise is the biggest problem elected officials aren’t confronting, while 25% of respondents said the real problem was a “lack of principles.”
That was vastly different from the responses on the right — 54% of Republican respondents said the biggest problem was a lack of principles, while only 36% of respondents said the problem was a lack of compromise.
That’s a worse forecast for compromise than when the same poll was conducted last year. That survey found that 49% of self-identified Republican voters said the biggest problem was a lack of principles, and 40% said that the problem was a lack of compromise.
Slightly more Democrats were in favour of compromise, as well: The 2015 poll found 71% of Democrats blamed elected officials for refusing to compromise, while just 20% said that the problem was a lack of principles.
“It is not clear how Washington can be fixed when Republicans and Democrats don’t even agree on what the problem is,” Monmouth University Polling director Patrick Murray said in a statement. “We have reached the point where many feel that the opposite side of the political aisle poses an existential threat to the country itself.”
Other recent polls show that the majority of Republican voters would prefer party leaders to shut down the government or forego passing key pieces of legislation if it means leaders stick to their principles.
As The Washington Post has noted, Republican voters’ appetite for a principled leader at any cost has created the ideal situation for presidential candidates like Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose campaigns have offered an anti-establishment, take-no-prisoners vision of politics that has targeted elected politicians from both parties.
Last year, Cruz made waves by accusing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) of lying in a Senate floor speech, a fairly remarkable public breach of decorum for a generally cordial caucus.
Trump has also kept Republican leaders in his sights on the campaign trail, criticising House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) for supposedly giving too many concessions to Democrats in the latest federal budget.
“Everything that you don’t want is in that budget,” Trump said earlier this year. “And I say where was Paul Ryan? Where are all of these people that are supposed to be representing our interests? Where were they? Where are they? Where are they? Nobody’s representing our interests.”
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