BY LAURA SILVER
A median of 65% of adults across 19 surveyed countries say there are strong or very strong disagreements in their country between people who support different political parties, according to a spring 2022 Pew Research Center survey. These perceptions are most widespread among adults in South Korea, the United States, Israel, France and Hungary, where at least seven-in-ten say this.
In South Korea, for example, around nine-in-ten adults say there are strong conflicts between people who support different political parties, including around half (49%) who say these conflicts are very strong. Americans are about as likely as South Koreans to perceive strong partisan conflicts in their society, though they are somewhat less likely to describe these conflicts as very strong (41%).
People in South Korea and the U.S. were also the most likely to perceive strong partisan conflict in a 2021 Pew Research Center survey. And this year, the U.S. stands out for being the country where people are most likely to say that their nation is now more divided than it was before the coronavirus outbreak, as well as for having the largest partisan differences in public views of how well the pandemic has been handled.
While people in South Korea and the U.S. are most likely to perceive strong partisan conflicts in their society, both countries have seen a decline since 2021 in the share of adults who perceive these conflicts as very strong. The share of South Koreans who say this has fallen 9 percentage points since 2021, while the share of Americans who say so has declined 13 points.
How we did this
In other nations, perceived political divisions are increasing. Since 2021, there have been substantial increases in the share of adults who see strong political divisions in the Netherlands, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, Spain, France, Sweden and Belgium.
Many of these countries had an election or formed a government between the 2021 and 2022 surveys. In the Netherlands, for example – where perceived partisan conflicts increased the most of any surveyed country – an election took place in March 2021, but political disagreements left the nation without a coalition government for more than nine months, a new national record. In Canada, snap parliamentary elections in September 2021 did not change the government but did leave Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a minority government following a close race.
Although partisans in many countries tend to diverge over substantive preferences and opinions, they largely agree that there is division in their society. For example, in the U.S., Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are just as likely as Democrats and Democratic leaners to say there are strong partisan conflicts in their country.
To the extent that there are ideological differences in perceptions of partisan conflict, they are largely the result of people in the center (or “moderates” in the U.S.) being less likely to see conflict than those on the left (“liberals”) or those on the right (“conservatives”). One such example is Canada, where around seven-in-ten of those on both the left and the right perceive strong partisan conflicts in society, compared with around six-in-ten of those in the center who say the same.
In most countries, U.S. still seen as more politically divided than own society
This year, Pew Research Center also asked people internationally whether they think partisan divisions are strong in the United States. Across the 18 non-U.S. countries surveyed, a median of 74% of adults do see conflicts in the U.S. And in most countries, more see these conflicts in the U.S. than in their own country.
This is particularly the case in Australia, Sweden and Japan, where people are around 40 percentage points more likely to say there are conflicts between people who support different parties in the U.S. than to say the same about their own society.
Note: Here are the questions used for this report, along with responses, and its methodology. Reprinted with permission.